Climate change at home: The forecast for a hotter, wetter area

After one of the warmest Augusts on record since 1895, climate scientists expect the climate of western Massachusetts to become hotter and wetter over the next century.

The August average temperature was 74.1 degrees, the warmest on record, and 6.5 degrees warmer than the average monthly temperature, according to data published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) on September 9. in 2018 at 73.5 degrees. The meteorological summer, from June to August, was the second hottest summer on record at 71 degrees.

However, this warming trend is not a recent development, as the average temperature in the Connecticut River Valley has increased by about 2.5 degrees since 1895, according to NOAA data collected by scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“We’re seeing an increased frequency of extreme heat…and we’re seeing a wetter climate here; total annual precipitation is increasing,” said Michael Rollins, associate director of the Center for Climate System Research at UMass.

The average person might feel a difference of 2.5 degrees and it seems like nothing, but Rollins said it takes an incredible amount of energy to warm up the climate enough to make a difference in the annual average. Over time, these small changes in temperature can have a big impact on the seasons, too.

“Two to three degrees doesn’t seem like much of a difference if we’re talking about room temperature throughout the day,” Rollins said. “But for the environment, where it’s consistently two to three degrees above historical averages, there’s a huge amount of change in energy.”

As temperatures rise, the chance of lower amounts of precipitation increases throughout the year, according to Amparesh Karmalkar, associate professor in the University of Rhode Island’s Department of Earth Sciences.

“The more the atmosphere gets warmer and the more our oceans get warmer, the more evaporation from the oceans,” Karmalkar said. “That leads to more moisture in the atmosphere and at the same time, as the air gets warmer, it can have more moisture… If you put these effects together, you can imagine that in a warmer world, you might get more precipitation. rain.”

Rollins and Karmalkar said that winter will be the season when most people notice change in western Massachusetts.

“If we had higher temperatures in the winter, more rain could fall which could fall as rain instead of snow,” Karmalkar said. “This has implications for flooding, which has implications for storing water in the winter and releasing it in the spring.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the average temperature in winter hovers around 30 degrees, and Rollins said any change in temperature can significantly affect snowfall and freezing. In the past decade, Rollins said, winters here have become increasingly mild.

“Amherst has had three winters that averaged freezing — think about that for a moment,” he said. “More days that are above freezing in winter, have profound effects on our ecosystems and our recreation.”

While temperatures around the world are also increasing — the average global temperature change has increased by one degree since 1895 — New England is warming, and you will continue to see its climate getting warmer at an even greater rate due to the warmer air being pushed up by the ocean. The Atlantic, as well as the amplified warming that can occur in the absence of snow to reflect the sun’s radiation, according to Karmelkar.

Snow can keep temperatures low as sunlight bounces back into the atmosphere, Karmalkar said, but if an area starts getting less snow because the climate warms, this heating process begins to build up.

“If you have snow on the surface, it can actually lower the temperatures, but as the temperature gets higher, that snow starts to disappear, and as a result, you have a slightly darker surface that absorbs the radiation,” Karmelkar said. “High latitudes, like us in the northeastern United States and Canada, experience much higher warming in the future than other parts of the globe, especially in winter… It’s a positive feedback loop; the warming is amplified.”

While recreational opportunities such as skiing will be affected by a lack of snow, warmer temperatures and increased precipitation can upend many industries such as maple syrup production and agriculture as a whole, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Fourth National Climate Assessment, published in year 2018.

The report reads: “Studies show that Northeastern agriculture, which has annual commodity sales of nearly $21 billion, will benefit from climate change over the next half-century due to increased productivity over a longer growing season.” However, excess moisture is already a major cause of crop loss in the Northeast. Recent and projected increases in the amount, intensity and persistence of rainfall indicate increased impacts on agricultural operations.”

By 2035, the average temperature could be 3.5 degrees higher than it was in the pre-industrial era, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report. By 2070, temperatures across the state could rise by 6 degrees, according to projections created by UMass.

“There are a lot of warming effects that we expect to see,” Rollins said. “More warming in this century, until this time we begin to seriously mitigate these conditions.”

Chris Larrabee can be reached at claarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.

Whalen Insurance in Northampton sponsors Climate Change at Home.

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