The Extinction Chronicles

An impartial record of articles and events leading up to the end…

The Extinction Chronicles

Heat wave in West enters Day 6 as entire state of Arizona soars to record highs

Wildfire concerns are increasing as the combination of high heat and low humidity produces flammable conditions ripe for rapid fire ignition and spread.TAP TO UNMUTE

June 17, 2021, 8:35 AM PDT / Updated June 17, 2021, 6:39 PM PDTBy Kathryn Prociv and Jeremy Lewan

Historical records continue to be rewritten as extreme heat in the West threatens 40 million Americans on Thursday.

An unseasonably hot air mass has spurred highs to rise into the 90s and triple digits across much of the West this entire week, already smashing records in Wyoming, Utah, Arizona and Southern California.

Death Valley, already the holder of the hottest record on Earth with a reading of 134 degrees in 1913, established a new daily record of 125 Wednesday.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Denver had rare back-to-back 100 degree days, which has only happened 14 times on record. And this week was the earliest in the year it has done that. It could even have a rarer trifecta of triple digits, with Thursday’s forecast high flirting right around 100 degrees. The last time it had three 100-degree days in a row was 2012.

Death Valley’s soaring temperatures create hot spot for tourists

JUNE 17, 202100:54

The National Weather Service in Flagstaff noted it was likely that nearly every square inch of Arizona set a record high Wednesday.

Las Vegas soared to 116 degrees Wednesday breaking a record of 114 degrees for the date, and was only 1 degree shy of the record high of 117 degrees.

Finally, it hasn’t just been a day or two of record-setting heat but a relentless streak. When Tucson soared above 110 degrees Wednesday that made it the fifth day in a row the city endured that blistering heat. The record of consecutive days of 110 degrees or hotter is six set in June 1994. A forecast for three more days of 110 degrees or more will beat that.

And Tucson is not alone in having to endure the high heat for several more days. The entire Western region will continue to bake under temperatures 10 to 30 degrees above average through the weekend.

The scorching highs are also infiltrating eastward, breaking records in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and more. Records will likely topple again in Las Vegas and Phoenix, where highs are expected to surge above 110 in the coming days. Denver and Grand Junction, Colorado, will likely break their previous records for Thursday of 98 and 100, respectively, by several degrees. The heat will also threaten record highs in Kansas City, St. Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Omaha, Nebraska.


U.S. NEWSHusband of missing Colorado woman is charged with murder

DATA GRAPHICSTracking coronavirus case surges in the United States

And research reveals the fingerprints of climate change are all over these increasingly hot temperatures and longer heat waves. Compared to 1970, Phoenix now experiences eight more days a year of 110 degrees or higher and Denver 14 more days a year of 95 degrees or higher.

With the brutal heat continuing through the weekend, California power grid operators have issued a flex alert, or a plea for voluntary energy conservation, in an effort to reduce the risk for outages.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed an emergency proclamation aimed at freeing up additional energy capacity, his office said. It suspends some permitting requirements and allows the use of back-up power generation. The proclamation says that “conditions of extreme peril” exist.

Multiple brush fires have sparked in the San Joaquin Hills near San Jose, California, and over 100 firefighters have been dispatched to contain them. Extremely low humidity and gusty winds will enable flames to rapidly spread across parched vegetation.

About 4 million people were under red flag warnings Thursday.

Climate experts are also concerned that these flammable conditions appearing so early in the fire season are a sign that 2021 will be another record-setting wildfire season in California, possibly spawning fires that could incinerate millions of acres by year’s end.

But for the short term, there’s relief in sight. The high heat finally breaks early next week as temperatures return to near average or even below average for some spots.

Southwest’s new climate peril

Andrew Freedman

Illustration of pile of melting snow next to a flame

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

One of the fastest-warming regions of the U.S. is the Southwest — and that region, plus the broader West, is stuck in its most expansive and intense drought of the 21st century.

Why it matters: Studies show that a warming climate is exacerbating the drought, and in some ways may be triggering it in the first place. That means the Southwest is drying out — and California’s large wildfires could start as soon as next month.

  • And one climate researcher says California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains saw one of the fastest snow melt-outs in history this year.
  • The drought situation is particularly severe in the Colorado River Basin and northern California. Scientists and public officials are warning that the California wildfire season is likely to be severe, due to the combination of dry vegetation and above-average temperatures.
  • This one comes on the heels of the worst fire season in state history, which turned the skies above San Francisco a “Blade Runner” orange last year.

The big picture: Some parts of the world are already getting close to, or have slipped beyond, the Paris agreement’s temperature limit that scientists warned about in a report last week.

  • As Earth’s temperatures tick upwards, closer to the Paris guardrail of 1.5°C (2.7°F) above preindustrial levels, some parts of the world are already warming by much greater amounts, from the Southwestern U.S. to the Arctic. These areas are seeing destructive impacts that are mounting.

Details: California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains show what climate change can do as it worsens. The mountain snowpack, which provides 30% of the state’s water supply annually, has vanished about two months ahead of schedule.

  • Water runoff from snow melt has been paltry, and major reservoirs like Lake Oroville are running even lower than they did during the record drought from 2012-2016.
  • Climate change is playing a key role in the drought, by boosting temperatures and increasing the loss of water to the atmosphere. Much of the snow went directly from frozen form back into the air, rather than melting into runoff.
  • Warming is also thought to be leading to increasing chances of dry fall seasons in the Golden State and shortened rainy seasons, according to Daniel Swain, a climate researcher at UCLA and the Nature Conservancy.

Craig Clements, who studies wildfires at San Jose State University, warns that large wildfires typically not seen until late summer in California could occur this year as early as June. Vegetation is at near record dry levels for this time of year, he said.

  • “We are starting off in a more dire situation than we typically would for June,” Clements told Axios.

Context: The worsening drought and potentially devastating wildfire season is not an isolated occurrence for California and other Southwestern states.

  • Climate studies have consistently shown that as the world continues to warm, the Southwest will become drier and hotter. This is worrisome, given the likelihood of increased stress on water resources amid a population boom in states such as Arizona and Nevada.
  • Although it’s interspersed with short intervals of wetter years, parts of the West, including California, are suffering through an emerging, human-caused “megadrought” that began in 2000.
  • Studies show this drought, measured using soil moisture data and tree rings, is the second-worst in the past 1,200 years.

What they’re saying: “This current drought has quickly accelerated, and is now on par (if not worse) than the extreme and in some cases record-breaking drought that occurred just 5 years ago in California,” Swain said.

What’s next: If the world does not steeply reduce greenhouse gas emissions starting in this decade, more areas will warm to near or above the Paris limits, until the global average arrives at that level as well.

  • This threatens to unleash catastrophic impacts, such as the melting of parts of the Antarctic Ice Sheet.
  • For now, the drought and likely severe wildfire season in the West offer an unfortunate preview of what may come next.

Go deeper:

Earth may temporarily hit Paris climate limit in next 5 years

A very, very, very dry future for the U.S. West

Drought stokes fears of severe fire season in West

Then and now: A ‘megadrought’ in California

By Mark Kinver
Environment reporterPublished1 day agoShareRelated Topics

In our monthly feature, Then and Now, we reveal some of the ways that planet Earth has been changing against the backdrop of a warming world. Here, we look at the effects of extreme weather on a crucial reservoir that supplies water to millions of people in northern California.

This year is likely to be critically dry for California. Winter storms that dumped heavy snow and rain across the state are not expected to be substantial enough to counterbalance drought conditions.

Lake Oroville plays a key role in California’s complex water delivery system.

Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville, California

Drag button to see how extreme drought has affected lake

Photo of Bidwell Marina, Lake Oroville, California, in July 2014 after several years of drought
July 2014
Photo of Bidwell Marina, Lake Oroville, California in July 2011
July 2011

Source: Getty

This 65km-square body of water north of Sacramento is the second-largest reservoir in California.

Not only does Lake Oroville store water, it helps control flooding elsewhere in the region, assists with the maintenance of water quality and boosts the health of fisheries downstream.

In 2014, more than 80% of California was in the grip of an “extreme drought”. Against this backdrop, Oroville’s capacity fell to 30% – a historic low level.

As the water level receded to hundreds of feet below normal levels, ramps and roads no longer reached the water’s edge.

More worryingly, the reservoir – when full – provided enough water for an estimated seven million households, as well as providing power for hydroelectricity facilities and irrigation for agricultural land.

Infographic - US drought conditions

‘Unusually destructive’

The dry conditions didn’t start in 2014, however, there had been a drought for years prior to Oroville recording its historic low level.

Indeed, the US space agency’s Earth Observatory had warned that the multi-year drought was having a wider impact on the region. Among its effects was a contribution to “unusually active and destructive” fire seasons and poor yields from agricultural land.

“There is strong evidence from climate models and centuries of tree ring data that suggest about one-third to one-half of the severity of the current drought can be attributed to climate change,” observed Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist from Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

Agency scientists added that the data suggested a “megadrought” might already be underway in this region – and that it could last for decades.

The latest update from the US Drought Monitor in December 2020, showed that much of the country’s western states were gripped by extreme or exceptional drought, with Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, Colorado and western Texas being the worst affected.

The damaged spillway and the eroded hillside at the Oroville Dam
image captionThe emergency spillway at the dam was predicted to collapse

The Drought Monitor releases maps showing the parts of the country with prolonged shortages in the water supply. It is produced jointly by the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

From one extreme…

Climate change is not just about a warmer world, it also means that the planet will see more extreme environmental conditions and weather. So, for example, episodes of flooding will increase, as well as episodes of droughts.

Lake Oroville was a perfect illustration of how these extremes can threaten our existing infrastructure.

While the lake’s levels reached a historic low in 2014, the reservoir’s vast embankment dam – the tallest in the US – was pushed to breaking point in February 2017.

Following fierce storms in the surrounding mountains, water was flowing into the lake at a rate of roughly one-and-a-half Olympic-size swimming pools each second. captionWhat went wrong with US dam?

Communities downstream had been evacuated, with more than 100,000 people being ordered to leave their homes.

Officials were struggling to allow water to flow out of the lake because the main spillway – a structure that provides controlled releases of water – and the emergency spillway had been eroded and damaged.

Yet they had to continue sending water down the valley because the reservoir was reaching capacity and there was a sense that there could be a “catastrophic failure” in the structure.

In the space of two years, the lake went from an unprecedented low to a capacity that had not been experienced before. Water cascaded over the emergency spillways, which had not previously been required.

Map of northern California

Traditionally, the lake was replenished by meltwater from a thawing snowpack in surrounding mountains, whose river systems fed the reservoir. June was the month when the reservoir was expected to reach its yearly maximum level.

However, in 2017, it was rain that caused the intense water flow. The reservoir had reached capacity in February, rather than the middle of the year, as usually happened.

Scientists again suggested that the event fitted into the paradigm of a warming world.

Speaking at the time to the Guardian newspaper, Prof Roger Bale, from the University of California Merced, explained: “With a warmer climate, we get these winter storms, which dump rain rather than snow.”

California Department of Water Resources staff monitoring the water flowing through the damaged spillway on Friday 10 February
image captionCalifornia Department of Water Resources officials closely monitored the cascade over the reservoir’s damaged spillway

The United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) said that the “frequency and intensity of droughts, storms and extreme weather events are increasingly likely above 1.5C (above pre-industrial levels)”.

Failure to keep the global average temperature rise to below 1.5C, as outlined in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, is likely to result in more of the world’s reservoirs or flood defences being tested to breaking point.

This is a stark warning for world leaders, who will be gathering once again this year at the UN’s annual climate summit (COP26) – to be held in Glasgow.

The meeting, which had to be postponed by a year because of Covid, will seek to raise global ambition on tackling climate change – with a view to keeping temperature rise within the 1.5C limit.

Our Planet Then and Now will continue up to the UN climate summit in Glasgow, which is due to start in November 2021

Arizona Democratic congressman tests positive for Covid-19

Democrat Raul Grijalva speaks during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on June 29, 2020.

(CNN)Arizona Democrat Rep. Raúl Grijalva has tested positive for coronavirus, his office confirmed Saturday.

Grijalva “was notified by the (Capitol) attending physician yesterday evening that he has tested positive for Covid-19,” his communications director, Geoff Nolan, told CNN on Saturday.
Because he had been at a hearing on Tuesday with Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert, who tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday, “out of precaution, Grijalva went into self-isolation on Wednesday until he got a test,” Nolan said.
In a statement Saturday, Grijalva slammed Republicans who don’t wear masks in the building, citing the events of the week.
“While I cannot blame anyone directly for this, this week has shown that there are some Members of Congress who fail to take this crisis seriously,” he said. “Numerous Republican members routinely strut around the Capitol without a mask to selfishly make a political statement at the expense of their colleagues, staff, and their families.”
Nolan said that Grijalva is currently asymptomatic and that “he’s feeling fine and is just getting some rest.”
Grijalva will be quarantining in his home in the Washington area, and some of the staffers who had been with him during the week are going to be tested as well, Nolan added. He noted that Grijalva wears a mask every day at the Capitol.
Grijalva also praised House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s mandate requiring all House members and aides to wear masks on the floor “to keep members and staff safe from those looking to score quick political points,” he said. “Stopping the spread of a deadly virus should not be a partisan issue.”
While Grijalva and Gohmert are the two most recent, multiple federal lawmakers in both parties have had the virus. At least five other House members have announced they tested positive: Republican Reps. Morgan Griffith of Virginia, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, and Democratic Reps. Joe Cunningham of South Carolina and Ben McAdams of Utah. Democratic Rep. Nydia Velázquez of New York has said she had “been diagnosed with presumed coronavirus infection.”
On the Senate side, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia announced in May that he and his wife tested positive for coronavirus antibodies. In late March, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky tested positive but has since recovered.

Arizona’s COVID-19 spread is ‘alarming’ and action is needed, experts warn

Rachel Leingang

Arizona Republic

PHOENIX – Experts around the country and in Arizona are raising alarms about Arizona’s COVID-19 situation because cases and hospitalizations have increased for the past two weeks.

The increase in cases can’t solely be attributed to increased testing in Arizona, experts say.

Instead, it looks like the state is trending upward in a way that is concerning and could need another stay-at-home order to curb the spread.

“I would go so far as to say alarming,” said Dr. William Hanage, an epidemiology professor at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “The only sort of crumb of comfort that I can find is that I think, in general, it’s sort of easier to social distance in Arizona than it is in some places.”

US coronavirus map:Keep track of the numbers across the country and in your state

If trajectory continues, state ‘may need to gear up for increasing action’

Arizona’s largest hospital system warned over the past week that its intensive care units are filling up, ventilator use was on the rise and capacity was reached for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation treatment.

“We have seen a steady climb of COVID-19 cases in Arizona over the last two weeks,” Banner Health tweeted Monday. “This trend is concerning to us, and also correlates with a rise in cases that we are seeing in our hospital ICUs.”

The state health director sent a letter June 6 to hospitals urging them to “fully activate” their emergency plans.

But Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Dr. Cara Christ, the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said last week that the rise in cases was expected as Arizona started reopening.

Ducey’s office has repeatedly pointed to an increase in testing as the cause of case numbers increasing.

Jessica Rigler, the state health department’s assistant director, said the department is trying to spread the message that people can take precautions such as wearing a mask in public and staying home while sick.

“We don’t want people to be in crisis mode, thinking that everything is all bad in Arizona with the cases,” Rigler said. “We are certainly monitoring what’s going on and trying to ensure that people understand where we are with COVID-19 in our communities.”

The situation is “very concerning,” she said.

“If we continue on this trajectory and it is not just due to one or two localized outbreaks, then we may need to gear up for increasing action,” Ernst said in an email. “The director of ADHS has declared all hospitals should activate their emergency plans. That should tell us all something.”

Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said the governor’s office is working with public health officials and community leaders to provide more guidance on reopening, “ensuring businesses return smarter and work to mitigate the spread.”

Ptak said in an email that the increase in cases was anticipated, and the state is working on ways to increase hospital capacity. The old St. Luke’s hospital is “ready for activation” though not yet needed, he said.

Ptak also pointed to increased testing as a reason cases are increasing, saying testing has doubled since the stay at home order ended May 15.

What national experts see

Across the country, health experts have taken notice of Arizona’s trajectory.

“There are 3 state warnings worth issuing today for COVID,” Andy Slavitt, a former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama, tweeted Tuesday. “Not panic, but time to consider actions.”

Arizona was on the list, along with Arkansas and Utah.

Youyang Gu, a data scientist who created, posted a map of how states’ cases are changing, considering both population and the rate of increase, he wrote on Twitter.

In that map, Arizona appears bright red, earning the worst score for COVID-19 case changes. Positive scores on the map mean cases are decreasing. States that had early outbreaks, including New York and Michigan, now have positive scores on the map.

Arizona scored -100, the lowest in the country.

Other models projecting the spread of COVID-19 have adjusted their estimates upward for Arizona.

model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington showed in mid-May that Arizona would reach about 2,900 deaths from the disease by August 4. It now predicts more than 4,400 by that date.

During New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 briefing June 8, he said Arizona and a few other states offered a “cautionary tale.”

With an increase like Arizona is seeing, the state needs to be thinking about how to slow the disease down, Hanage said. Reopening does the opposite, because transmission occurs when people come into contact with others, he said.

If states wait too long to act, they’re “sitting on a kind of powder keg of transmission chains,” Hanage said.

What are numbers showing?

Most indicators in Arizona show an increase in the disease’s spread that goes beyond just increased testing, experts say. For example, since the day after the stay-at-home order expired May 16 to Tuesday, cases increased by 108% while testing increased by 100%.

Last week, several days saw more than 1,000 newly reported cases. Prior to the past week’s dramatic case increases, new cases reported daily have typically been in the several hundreds.

Hospitalizations have steadily risen. Statewide hospitalizations as of Sunday were at 1,266 inpatients in Arizona with suspected and confirmed COVID-19, which was the second highest number, behind Friday, since the state began reporting the data on April 9. The past eight days have seen inpatient hospitalizations statewide for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 eclipse 1,000.

The percentage of positive tests per week increased from 5% a month ago to 6% three weeks ago to 9% two weeks ago, and 12% last week.

With increasing testing, the percent of positive tests out of all tests would ideally decrease, Hanage said.

Who is being tested, particularly if there are efforts to test those in congregate settings such as nursing homes, can affect this percentage, Hanage said.

Can vitamin D help with symptoms of COVID-19? Possibly, it’s key to helping your immune system function

Statewide, Arizona didn’t see a decrease in COVID-19 at any point, said Dr. Joe Gerald, an associate professor at UA’s Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. Some places did begin to plateau or level off, he said. But since social distancing restrictions were lifted in early- to mid-May, the disease has taken off, he said.

“When you put these pieces together, they’re really worrisome signs that the outbreak has really gained speed and momentum again,” Gerald said. “And if we don’t do something to turn it around fairly quickly, we could be in real trouble come early July.”

Gerald said it looks like, if trends continue, hospital capacity could reach its limit by early July, which could mean trouble for providing high-quality care to people who need it.

What could stop the trend?

It’s clear now to experts that the state is in a concerning position. But acting immediately to take measures to curb the spread won’t have an immediate effect on case increases because people are already infected and spreading it to their close contacts, they said.

Hanage said if he were advising the governor, he would say the least that can be done is to halt reopening and see if the increase continues.

“Even if you were to be able to take pretty effective measures now, you’d still be having a month or so of difficulty with cases at at least this level, if not somewhat more,” Hanage said.

Still, experts say the state needs to act quickly to get the situation under control.

The public needs to continue following public health recommendations, such as physically distancing, wearing masks and washing hands, Ernst, of the University of Arizona, said. It’s also important for state leaders to follow these guidelines, she said.

Ducey, for instance, has not worn a mask in public and has been pictured at meetings indoors with groups of unmasked people.

“There needs to be a cultural shift,” Ernst said. “So many people still aren’t wearing masks. But people see leaders not taking these precautions and they hear the state is open and they let their guard down. Psychologically, it is hard to keep it going, but it is critical. This will get closer to home to people as more get sick.”

Gerald said it’s hard to see how the state could avoid another shutdown at the rate cases and hospitalizations are increasing right now.

Will Humble, the executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, detailed in a blog post several steps the state should take now to stem cases. Those include a focusing on testing and infection control in nursing homes, enhancing contact tracing, allowing cities to put their own mitigation strategies in place and requiring people to wear cloth masks in public.

Those steps could make it so the state doesn’t have to institute another stay at home order, Humble said.

“If we don’t do anything, we’re just going to drive off a cliff,” Humble said.

US south-west in grip of historic ‘megadrought’, research finds

Intensified by climate change, the current 20-year arid period is one of the worst on record, with wide-ranging effects

The Enterprise Bridge passes over a section of Lake Oroville that is nearly dry on 19 August 2014 in Oroville, California. The region is in the grip of a 20-year megadrought, research suggests.

The Enterprise Bridge passes over a section of Lake Oroville that is nearly dry in 2014 in Oroville, California. The region is in the grip of a 20-year megadrought, research suggests. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Published onFri 29 May 2020 05.30 EDT

When Ken Pimlott began fighting US wildfires at the age of 17, they seemed to him to be a brutal but manageable natural phenomenon.

“We had periodic [fire] sieges in the 80s, but there were breaks in between,” said Pimlott, the former head of the California department of forestry and fire protection. But no longer. “That doesn’t really happen any more. Now you can’t even blink” between fires, he said. “We’re seeing the kinds of fires we have never seen before.”

A recent study published in the journal Science helps explains why, revealing that the south-western US is in the grip of a 20-year megadrought – a period of severe aridity that is stoking fires, depleting reservoirs and putting a strain on water supplies to the states of the region.

“You see impacts everywhere, in snowpacks, reservoir levels, agriculture, groundwater and tree mortality,” said co-author Benjamin Cook, of Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory. “Droughts are these amazingly disruptive events. Water sits at the foundation of everything.”

Researchers compared soil moisture records from 2000-2019 to other drought events from the past 1,200 years. They found that the current period is worse than all but one of five megadroughts identified in the record.

Unlike past megadroughts – brought on by natural fluctuations in the Earth’s climate – this current drought has been heavily influenced by human-induced climate change, “pushing what would have been a moderate drought in south-western North America into megadrought territory”, according to the study.

“Global warming has made the drought much worse than it otherwise would have been,” said Cook. “We estimate 30-50% is attributed to climate change.”

According to Nasa, 19 of the 20 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001. Climate change, if unchecked, will hit the American south-west particularly hard.

A major concern is the megadrought’s impact on water supplies in the region. It has experienced explosive growth – half of the nation’s fastest-growing states are in the south-west – made possible by elaborate river diversion projects and massive reservoirs.

Over the past two decades, drought-depleted rivers, and population growth has led to steep declines in two of the nation’s largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, on which which tens of millions of people depend.

Water deliveries from the Colorado River are also being rationed this year, for the first time.

For Pimlott, this drought has manifested itself in 21st-century fires unlike any he had previously witnessed. In 2018, a fire tornado destroyed part of one northern California town, and almost the entire community of Paradise, California, was wiped out by a blaze that claimed 85 victims.

“Were seeing more intense fires, with longer durations,” he said.

Climate Change Threatens Arizona’s Forest Birds

New Audubon report shows about half of Arizona’s birds are vulnerable.

When most folks think of Arizona, they think of the saguaro cactus and red rocks. But the ecology of the 48th state is actually much more diverse—it’s home to spruce and fir trees on the  highest mountains and is home to the largest ponderosa pine forest on the planet.

So, what will a warming planet mean to these forests and the birds that live there?

The Arizona section of Audubon’s latest report, Survival by Degrees: 389 Species on the Brink features the Painted Redstart, a colorful summer resident and breeding bird in the state’s pine forests. But the Painted Redstart is vulnerable to a changing climate.

In Arizona, 102 out of 242 species are climate vulnerable in summer under a 3 degrees Celsius temperature increase. Of those 102 species, the 44 species that summer in Arizona’s forests will be the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The greatest climate-related threats to Arizona forests are wildfire and drought. Drought results in bark beetle outbreaks that kill trees, and a smaller snowpack in the winter. Higher temperatures may also prevent the return of forest trees, which will be replaced by more heat and drought tolerant plants such as fire prone shrubs.

In addition to the Painted Redstart, other forest birds at high risk are Dusky Grouse, Spotted Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Red Crossbill, Acorn Woodpecker, Mountain Chickadee, Bridled Titmouse, Western Bluebird, Townsend’s Solitaire, Pygmy Nuthatch, Red-faced Warbler, Olive Warbler, Grace’s Warbler, Cassin’s Finch, Hepatic Tanager, and more.

As we know, water is life in the arid West, and Arizona’s forests are the watersheds for our water supplies. Fire and drought threaten our water supplies because soils and sediments end up in the streams and rivers that provide drinking water to Phoenix and nearby cities. Beyond Arizona, the drying and loss of forests in the Rocky Mountains means quicker snowmelts in spring. These snowpacks are the life-blood of the Colorado River basin water supply and we rely on them to melt slowly so we can have drinking water and flowing rivers year-round.

In addition to protecting our forests, we must act to limit the increase in global temperature to only 1.5 degrees C (as opposed to the more dire 3.0 C scenario) by taking action locally and at the federal level to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The birds will thank you and so will future generations.

Help Audubon track what the birds are telling us by joining Audubon’s Climate Watch bird surveys for bluebirds and nuthatches.