The effects of climate change are real and should be considered by officials formulating the state's 50-year plan for water usage and supply, the state's top climate official said Thursday.
Oklahoma can expect to see longer hot spells, more frequent heat waves and short periods of cold weather, state climatologist Ken Crawford told attendees at the Governor's Water Conference and Oklahoma Water Resources Research Institute.
Prolonged heat waves and dry periods will put additional stress on Oklahoma's water resources, Crawford said.
The Oklahoma Climatological Survey released its statement on climate change this week as water planning officials met to discuss the state's future water needs. Using Oklahoma weather data dating to 1896 and information from an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the state's climate-tracking agency cautioned against ignoring the effects of a warming globe.
"Mounting evidence continues to indicate ... that human activities have begun to impact the earth's climate through the release of greenhouse gases,” the report states. "Even if greenhouse gas concentrations were held steady since the year 2000, the earth is committed to decades of warming from heat already absorbed by the oceans.”
While the cause of global warming may be politicized, its effects are not, Crawford said.
"With as much heated debate that's out there, we thought we ought to at least take a stand and weed through the riff-raff,” Crawford said. "We wanted to present this in understandable terms so people who are out there making policy are informed.”
Oklahoma will still have variable weather patterns, like hot years and cold years, but over a 10-year period the state could see increased droughts and more severe dry spells, Crawford said.
Unlike some Western states, Oklahoma has an ample supply of water, but the state's population is expected to grow by nearly a million people in the next 50 years.
Oklahoma Climatological Survey
Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan