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FEMA and NOAA Join Forces to Warn of the Impact of Climate Change
Updated: April 18, 2000

FEMA Director James Lee Witt and D. James Baker, the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, released the latest bad news about global climate change at an Earth Week news conference held in New Orleans on April 18. According to the latest data, the U.S. experienced the warmest January to March period in the past 106 years of record-keeping by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. The latest data also show that June 1999 to March 2000 was the warmest for that period on record. The increase in climate temperatures could mean more disastrous weather for this country, according to Baker. "Ignoring climate change and the most recent warming patterns could be costly to the nation. Small changes in global temperatures can lead to more extreme weather events including, droughts, floods and hurricanes," he said. "We will continue to provide the best possible data and forecasts to the policy makers to help them as they deal with these difficult issues."

FEMA's director added his own warning for the nation."There is no doubt that the human and financial costs of weather related disasters have been increasing in recent years," said Witt. "It is time to increase our efforts in applying prevention strategies to reduce the impacts of the changes in weather climates." FEMA data shows that damage from more frequent and severe weather calamities and other natural phenomena during the past decade required 460 major disasters to be declared, nearly double the 237 declarations for the previous ten-year period and more than any other decade on record. Financially, comparing a three-year period of 1989 through 1991, and 1997 through 1999, the federal costs of severe weather disasters rose a dramatic 337 percent in the latter part of the decade.

With the increased knowledge that the weather continues to become more intense, NOAA and FEMA are working closely together to mitigate the impacts of these seasonal storms. NOAA will continue to coordinate the work of federal, international, and private scientists to bring to the table current data, outlooks and forecasts. FEMA will continue to place an emphasis on disaster prevention with the desire to cut the economic and emotional costs of disasters. Scientists widely believe that long-term climate changes such as global greenhouse warming could have major impacts on human health, the environment, the economy, and society - affecting everything from transportation to water management and agriculture to international trade and development. According to the latest seasonal forecast for most of the U.S., the rest of the spring and summer will bring warmer than normal temperatures; and some Midwest and Great Plains states will continue to experience drier than normal conditions. For more information, check out NOAA's Web Site or NOAA's National Climatic Data Center Web site.