United States

What the New Climate Report Says About New England

The 4th National Climate Assessment was released Friday. The document assesses the state of climate change across the country, and uses a wide variety of research to outline what’s to come.

A whole section of the report is dedicated to the Northeast. Here are just a few of the highlights that involve New England.

By 2035, the report says temperatures in the Northeast will likely be 3.6 degrees higher than preindustrial levels. We’re already about halfway to that mark. This is the largest increase of any region in the United States, and is two decades ahead of when the global average will reach that level.

By 2050, the report expects Northeast temperatures to be 4-5 degrees higher.

With that increase we can expect more very hot days that send people to the hospital. In Rhode Island, for example, research showed a dramatic increase in emergency room visits when temperatures spiked past 80 degrees.

By 2050, the report says 650-960 more people may suffer a premature death because of heat in the Northeast, with the numbering climbing to 2,300 by 2090.

The warming is not expected to be evenly distributed throughout the year, however. Winters have so far warmed three times faster than summers. That trend is expected to continue. The report expects less early season snow, and an earlier snow melt as a result.

While that will increase variability for the ski industry and the maple sugaring industry, farmers in the Northeast are likely to enjoy a longer growing season. The report sees that as being beneficial to agriculture for the next 50 years or so, but notes some plants may suffer losses if blooms happen early followed by a late season cold snap. Livestock in particular is expected to be more productive thanks to the warmer winters.

The document also says that longer growing season will increase carbon sequestration, meaning trees will suck more carbon out of the air. The assessment also anticipates that fall foliage color in the Northeast will be enhanced.

On the flip side, allergy sufferers can expect longer and more intense pollen seasons.

In terms of the ocean, the report says Northeast waters are warming three times faster than the global average. It is also cooling down more slowly in the fall. That will continue, it expects.

The warmer waters will continue to push some species of fish farther north and into deeper water. So far populations of shrimp, clams, and cod have decreased while black sea bass are increasing. The report says fishermen will need to remain flexible and willing to follow the catch in order to stay viable.

Sea level rise in the Northeast is 3-4 times greater than the global average, in part because the land along the east coast is sinking.

By 2100 it calls for a 2-4.5 rise in sea level, with a worst case scenario of 11 feet. Due to increased flooding and that rise, the report says property losses in Southeastern Massachusetts may reach $15 billion by 2100.

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