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Early snowstorm fits UN predictions

Reports suggest greenhouse gases, climate change will cause world-wide extreme weather, loss of forests in US West

NEW YORK (UPI) | November 5, 2011

"The forests of our future are going to look quite different."

—Richard Waring, Oregon State University

The unseasonably early October snowstorm that hit the United States fits with an upcoming U.N. report on climate-change predictions, experts said.

The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to be released Nov. 18, is expected to conclude man-made greenhouse gases are causing extreme and unpredictable weather resulting in billions of dollars in costs to governments, insurers, businesses and individuals, the Los Angeles Times reported.

While the U.N. report concentrates on climate prediction, a new research study from Oregon State University (OSU) says climate change and other factors are causing massive movements of tree species across the U.S. West.

With global warming, insect attack, diseases and fire, many tree species are projected to decline or die out in regions where they have been present for centuries while others move in and replace them, OSU researchers say.

Climate experts said 2011 has been one of the worst years in American history for extreme weather with blizzards, flooding, drought and a heat wave that enveloped much of the country.

April saw a "super outbreak" of 875 tornado reports nationwide, well above the 30-year average for the month of 135, in which 327 people were killed.

The U.N. "Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation" is intended to help governments and policymakers boost preparedness for extreme weather events, the Times said.

According to the forest study, once-common species such as lodgepole pine may be replaced by other trees, perhaps a range expansion of ponderosa pine or Douglas fir, while other areas may see a shift completely out of forest into grass savannah or sagebrush desert.

In central California, researchers concluded more than half of the species now present would not be expected to persist in the climate conditions of the future.

"Some of these changes are already happening, pretty fast and in some huge areas," OSU Richard Waring, lead author of the study, said in a university release Thursday.

"In some cases the mechanism of change is fire or insect attack, in others it's simply drought.

"We can't predict exactly which tree (species) will die or which one will take its place, but we can see the long-term trends and probabilities," Waring said.

"The forests of our future are going to look quite different."

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