Dramatic weather convinces many Westerners of global warming

As the Western U.S. increasingly suffers from what many scientists believe are the effects of climate change — reduced snowpack, massive forest fires, alternating drought and torrential rain — more and more residents are accepting the reality of the phenomenon. “Do I believe in global warming? Absolutely,” said Reese Woodling, who last year abandoned his ranch along the New Mexico-Arizona border because of crippling drought. A decade-long drought has Arizona’s economy drying up as well, costing cattle-related industries $2.8 billion in 2002. But current conditions are just a taste of what’s to come, says researcher C. Mark Eakin of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “When you’ve got an increased tendency toward drought in a region that’s already stressed, then you’re just looking for trouble,” he said. “Weather is like rolling the dice, and climate change is like loading the dice.”