Global Warming Will Dramatically Alter U.S. Northeast
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, October 4, 2006 (ENS) - Global warming will cause major changes to the climate of the U.S. Northeast if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, scientists said today. Warmer annual temperatures, less snow, more frequent droughts and more extreme rainstorms are expected if current warming trends continue, the scientists said in a new study, and time is running out for action to avoid such changes to the climate.
The Northeast's climate is already changing, the report said, as spring is arriving sooner, summers are hotter and winters are warmer and less snowy.
Annual temperatures across the nine states of the Northeast have risen more than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970. Winter temperatures, however, have risen much faster - about 3.8 degrees since 1970.
All these changes could accelerate without action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the report's authors warn.
"The very notion of the Northeast as we know it is at stake," said Dr. Cameron Wake, a research professor at the University of New Hampshire's Climate Change Research Center and co-author of the report. "The near-term emissions choices we make in the Northeast and throughout the world will help determine the climate and quality of life our children and grandchildren experience."
The report was released by the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA), a collaboration between the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and a team of independent scientists from universities across the Northeast and the nation.
The two-year study is the first NECIA report, examining the potential regional consequences of continued reliance on fossil fuels compared to shifting to energy sources - such as wind and solar - that do not produce greenhouse gases. The latter scenario would result in declining greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century.
The current report analyzes the impacts of the two emissions scenarios in 30-year increments: 2010-2039, 2040-2069, and 2070-2099.
It finds similar consequences in the early decades, but "starkly different outcomes as children born today reach middle-age."
If the higher emissions path is followed summer in upstate New York could feel like present-day South Carolina.
Average annual temperatures in the Northeast will likely rise 6.5-12.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century absent change, the report said, compared to an increase of 3.5-6.5 degrees if emissions are sharply reduced.
Currently Northeast cities experience only one or two days per summer over 100 degrees - that could increase to 14 to 28 days without cuts, compared to three to nine days under lower emissions.
Across the Northeast, the number of days with snow on the ground will be reduced by 50 percent in the higher emissions scenario, but only by 25 percent under the lower scenario.
Droughts in the region are projected to be much more frequent on the higher emissions path - more frequent and more intense rainstorms are predicted under both scenarios.
The researchers acknowledge that global warming is a problem for the entire planet, but say that the Northeast has a major role to play. Ranked against the nations of the world, the Northeast is the seventh largest emitter of carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas, and historically the region has been a leader in clean air policy, directly influencing federal policy.
Shifting the region's economy toward emissions-free energy sources, along with improving energy efficiency and conservation, can also aid the economy of the Northeast, the report concludes.
"Lowering emissions provides a tremendous opportunity for the Northeast," said Dr. Peter Frumhoff, director of the global environment program at UCS and chair of the NECIA synthesis team. "We can use our intellectual capital to lead the world in innovative technologies and practices that we will all need to leave a healthy climate for future generations."