Weather forecasters are now saying the likelihood of Hurricane Sandy hitting New England in some fashion is increasing, delivering what could be the worst weather conditions since the Perfect Storm of 1991. Climate change scientists, meanwhile, have released study after study saying the extreme weather effects and changing climate of New England will result in storms that are more intense, with worse floods, and damaging sea-level rise, among other effects.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) today released a report that pulls together the latest studies on climate change's negative effects on New England, painting a picture of a region already changed, and in danger of losing essential characteristics and economic engines.
"If climate change continues unchecked, Hurricane Sandy won't be our October surprise, it could be the new normal for New England, where dangerous storms and other climate effects put lives and livelihoods in danger," said Rep. Markey, who is the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee and the co-author of the only climate change bill to pass a chamber of Congress. "The Perfect Storm was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, but climate change is increasing the chances of these sorts of historic extreme weather events."
The report, "The New New England: How Climate Change Jeopardizes the Northeast's Economy and Environment," was written by the Democratic staff of the Natural Resources Committee, at the direction of Rep. Markey.
Some of the major findings of the report include:
Precipitation in New England is becoming increasingly erratic -- extreme rain and snowfall events are on the rise, making damaging floods more likely. Extreme downpours and snowfalls have increased by 85 percent since 1948.
Rates of sea-level rise from North Carolina to Massachusetts are two to four times faster than the global average, causing more erosion an storm threats now and potential inundation in the future.
The Northeast is heating up rapidly. January to August 2012 set a new record for high temperatures both on land and in the ocean. Without action to curb carbon pollution, this warming is expected to continue. By the end of the century, Massachusetts summers could feel like North Carolina's.
Ocean temperatures in the Northeast during the first half of 2012 were the warmest on record, which can fuel stronger storms.
Climate changes in New England are changing the economic climate in key industries throughout the region. The Markey report finds that:
By 2100, Maine will likely be the only state cold enough to sustain ski resorts, putting thousands out of work and losing billions of dollars for the New England economy.
In 2012, New England maple syrup production was down 27 percent from the previous year, leading to an approximately $17 million loss to the industry.
Invasive beetles, changing forests, droughts, and increasing wildfires could change the face -- and palette of fall foliage -- of New England's forests, leading to falling tourism visits and dollars.
As sea levels rise and storms become more severe, many of Boston's best-known landmarks will be threatened, including Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Station, Fan Pier, Copley Church, John Hancock Tower and the Public Garden.
Warming waters are already potentially altering the makeup of marine life off New England's coasts, leading to severe reductions in fish like cod, and massive increases in lobster stocks.
"We have some of the best skiing, fishing and foliage in the world in New England, and it all is at risk due to climate change," said Rep. Markey. "In order to save our traditions, we need more innovations that will cut the carbon pollution that is changing the very face of our planet."