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Exploring climate change impact in western states versus the Great Lakes

California drought
Jake Osborne
A view of Stevens Creek reservoir in California during a drought.

The U.S. saw record drought last year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, with annual precipitation totaling about 1.6 inches below average. Californians are currently experiencing the three driest years on record. Stretches of the Colorado and Mississippi Rivers are running dry. Major water reservoirs, like Lake Mead at the Hoover Dam, have dropped to their lowest levels on record -- which is currently at just 27% capacity. And just last week, more than two dozen scientists and conservationists issued a dire warning about the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Scientists say if it continues to shrink at its current rate, the lake could disappear in the next 5 years. Losing these giant water resources in the U.S. could have major health, economic and environmental consequences. The Great Lakes region holds roughly 20 percent of the world's surface freshwater. The region faces challenges from climate change too, including the threat of harmful algal blooms. In recent years, there have been some questions about whether drier states could also utilize the Great Lakes as a water resource but that is a complicated policy topic that involves not only the states in the region but also Canada which has stake in the future of the lakes and their water. This hour, we will talk about the impact that climate change is having both on the West, and here in the Great Lakes.

-Jeff Opperman, Global lead freshwater scientist for the World Wildlife Fund
-Nick Greenawalt, Senior Service Hydrologist for the National Weather Service, Cleveland

Leigh Barr is a producer for Ideastream Public Media's the “Sound of Ideas” and the “Sound of Ideas Reporters Roundtable.”