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Central North Carolina's change in climate

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Climate change has become an important topic across the country the past several years, including North Carolina.  From skiing in the mountains to surfing and relaxing on the beaches, the weather plays an extremely important role in lives and the economy of North Carolina. 

WNCN has taken you to the mountains and the coast talking about our weather past, present and future and no matter why things are changing, we all know it's not the way it used to be.  Central North Carolina, the most populated part of our state, could see changes equally as big as the rest of the state when it comes to warmer temperatures and less water if the climate continues to change.

Less snow in the mountains, less sand on our beaches and warmer and drier weather here in the central North Carolina.  Experts across the state agree that things just aren't like they used to be.  Ryan Boyles, the North Carolina State Climatologist says, "The best science we have right now suggests that we will continue to warm in terms of overall annual temps."

In the mountains, Ray Russell, founder of Raysweather.com, showed WNCN that "if you look at snow totals for the whole period, for 52 years, there is a definite trend for the amount of snow going down."

Along the North Carolina coast, Pablo Hernandez, DOT Engineer says, "After having been here on the coast for 15 years, seeing the effects of hurricanes, any modification in the environment and the oceans is going to have an effect on the islands."

For central North Carolina, it seems to be warmer, drier and not as snowy as it used to.  In the 60s and 70s and early 80s we had a lot more snow in central North Carolina, winters were a lot colder than they've been since the 1980s.  The state and the country have been warming in general over the past 30 years.

Part of the reason we may not see as much snow is because we don't have as many conditions to lead to snow events, but whether winter or summer that's a dominate trait, especially in urban areas, we just don't get as cold as we used to.

Boyles attributes part of the change to background warming, some of it has to do with changes in land use, so as we build more cities, the cities get warmer and that's a man made climate change, but it's not related to greenhouse gases.

Those changes in how we use the land with fewer farms, more cities and concrete changes how heat is absorbed and released and that can impact some of our best weather historians, farmers.

David Pope, a Knightdale family farmer for nearly 60 years said, "The drought has been worse the last four or five years, it used to be in the winter, you could count on rain about every week, our reservoirs are down, they've been down for two or three years."

Government experts agree, water supply is a critical issue.  Population growth along with more droughts in the future could be a bad combination.

Ken Waldroup, Assistant Public Utilities Director for the city of Raleigh, told WNCN that by the year 2024, our existing water resources will not be enough to meet our needs.  The city does plan for things like this; in fact their plan goes 30 to 50 years out.

Studies show that Raleigh's primary water source, Falls Lake, as started to lose nearly 2 billion gallons of water each year, partially due to warmer temperatures and evaporation.  While 2 billion gallons seems like a lot of water, it is only about one percent of the total volume of Falls Lake.

Boyles points out, "Where most of the population is in central North Carolina is also the headwaters of the river basins and it's where a lot of the water supply is surface water based, so drought is going to continue to be an issue if we want to see our population grow and have the water supplies manage effectively and figure out a way to use a lot less water or store a lot more water."

So, while drought has been a problem in the past at some level for North Carolina, continue population growth and climate change could make it a bigger problem in the future.  Despite planning by government officials, water is going to be a big factor, not just for North Carolina, but for the southeast and the globe.

Wes Hohenstein

Chief Meteorologist Wes Hohenstein delivers your weekday forecasts at 6, 7 and 11 p.m.…and that's a fact. His Emmy Award-winning "Weather Facts" promos have earned some laughs, but his passion for predicting the weather is no joke! More>>

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