More flooding, more heat, more air pollution, more damage to aging transportation infrastructure. These are just a few of the bleak predictions about how climate change will affect the Northeast and New England.
The regional forecast is included in the National Climate Assessment released on Tuesday by the White House. The report looks at the entire country, but says the Northeast already experienced a greater increase in extreme precipitation events than any other region in the U.S. between 1958 and 2010. More heavy rains and floods, combined with sea level rise and storm surges, will stress roads and bridges already affected by river flooding, heat waves and intense downpours.
The report notes that the population in Vermont – like that in other mountainous regions – has tended to settle along river flood plains. “More intense precipitation events will mean great flood risk, particularly in valleys, where people, infrastructure, and agriculture tend to be concentrated,” the report says.
The assessment was produced by the U.S. Global Climate Change Program, and includes other findings abut New England and Vermont:
- Lake Champlain. Long-term records show that the ice-in date – when ice closes the lake to navigation – shows the lake freezes approximately two weeks later than in the early 1800s, and over a week later than 100 years ago.
- Health. The hottest days in the Northeast are associated with high concentrations of ground-level ozone, air pollution that poses a major health risk to vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.
- Ecosystems. The impact of rising temperature is already changing the distributions of species. The report says that a Vermont study found an upslope shift of 299 to 390 feet in the boundary between northern hardwoods and boreal forests in the Green Mountains. Wildflowers and perennials are blooming early, and migratory birds are arriving sooner. “Because species differ in their ability to adjust, asynchronies (like a mismatch between key food source availability and migration patters) can develop, increasing species and ecosystem vulnerability,” the report says.