AMHERST, Mass. – In time for Earth Day, scientists at the Climate System Research Center (CSRC) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst this week released a set of state-specific reports describing likely effects of carbon emissions targets, agreed upon in December at “COP21” in Paris, on the future climate of 22 states including all those in the Northeast.
The COP21 agreement, expected to be ratified by government leaders at the United Nations in New York City on April 22, sets out targets for each country to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions to try to keep the average global annual temperature from rising more than 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C) above the pre-industrial level.
Raymond Bradley, director of UMass Amherst’s CSRC, says “It may come as a surprise that by the time global temperatures reach the COP21 target of 2 degrees C, states in the Northeast will have warmed much more. Or to look at it another way, our region will have already warmed by 2 degrees C a decade or two before the global target is reached.”
Each state report he and colleagues created uses easy-to-read maps, charts and graphs to show temperature and precipitation records over the last century plus changes that can be expected in the years ahead.
CSRC senior research associate Ambarish Karmalkar says, “The reports show that we can expect significant changes in climate right across the United States, but temperatures will rise more in the Northeast than in most other parts of the country.”
The Massachusetts report, for example, shows that the annual average temperature has already increased by about 2.4 degrees F (1.3 C) since 1895, faster than the global average. In the next 50 to 60 years, when average warming increases past the 2 degrees C mark globally, Massachusetts average summer and temperatures are projected to increase by over 6 degrees F (3.3 C) relative to pre-industrial levels.
“Summer in Massachusetts by the end of this century could feel like a present-day typical summer in South Carolina,” the report states. For Boston, daytime summer temperatures over 90 degrees are observed on about 10 days at present, but with climate change the number of days with dangerously high temperatures, above 90, is projected to increase significantly, to 64 days by 2070-90.
Each state report also discusses current and projected rain and snowfall, floods risk and sea-level rise over coming decades. Each includes information on state-specific wildlife action plans and other initiatives already mounted by states to address projected climate impacts.
Bradley points out that it is important for people not to be complacent about the outcome of the Paris agreement. “I think it is very unlikely that we will be able to limit global warming to the 2 degrees C target, given the current level of carbon dioxide emissions and the rather modest goals set for emission reductions in Paris. It is important for people to understand that the climate of our region is certainly going to change, even if we meet the Paris target, with probable impacts on all aspects of our environment, wildlife, forests, wetlands, agriculture and our urban infrastructure.”
Karmalkar adds, “We need to make sure that we do everything we can to try to meet the emissions reduction targets, or the changes we show in these reports will likely be even greater.”
Reports for individual states: https://www.geo.umass.edu/climate/stateclimatereports.html