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EPA turns up climate heat as Senate dithers

With prospects for a Senate climate bill under a cloud, the Obama administration has turned up the heat.  The Environmental Protection Agency says in a new report that there is "clear evidence" that human activities are altering the Earth's atmosphere and that climate is changing.

The EPA report lays out 24 "indicators" showing that climate is already shifting, most of them spotting trends in the United States.  Greenhouse gas emissions have increased 14 percent in the United States from 1990 to 2008.

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Among the highlights:

- Seven of the 10 warmest years on record in the continental US have occurred since 1990;

- Sea level rise has doubled its pace over the long term average since 1993;

- Six of the 10 most active hurricane seasons have occurred since the mid-1990s.

- Eight of the top 10 years for "extreme one-day precipitation events" (aka deluges or blizzards) have occurrred since 1990.

- The sea surface temperature has increased, with average temperatures in the past three decades higher than at any time since large-scale measurements began over a century ago.

- The average length of the growing season in the lower 48 states has grown by about two weeks since the beginning of the last century; much of the increase has occurred in the last 30 years.

- Birds in North America (like these brown pelicans at Barren Island in the Chesapeake Bay) have shifted their wintering grounds northward by about 35 miles since 1966, with a few moving hundreds of miles.  Birds also have shifted inland from the coasts, another indication of warming interior temperatures.

- Though snow varies from year to year, the amount of North America covered by white stuff any given year was significantly lower, on average, from 2000 to 2008, than it was during the 1970s.

For more on the report, go here.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., told Agence France-Presse that the climate bill he and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., have been working on is not dead just because Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, has withdrawn his support the measure. (Kerry in left of picture, Lieberman middle, Graham, right)

Graham reportedly pulled out to protest plans by the Senate's Democratic leaders to take up immigration reform before the climate bill.  Some fear climate legislation may be doomed this year unless the Senate takes it up before becoming embroiled in a debate over confirming President Obama's next pick for the Supreme Court.

(Baltimore Sun photos 2006 heat wave, Karl Merton Ferron; 2003 geese, Algerina Perna. 2009 Senators, AP)

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