Rhode Island has seen the highest rate of warming in New England since the turn of the 20th century, and its neighbors aren’t far behind as the region leads the nation in rising temperatures.
That’s according to a report released last month by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration detailing a disheartening temperature rise of 3 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit across the six New England states.
New England is getting hotter, faster than the rest of the country, NOAA’s 2022 state climate summaries reaffirm. If significant action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it could help the trajectory of the region. But at the current rate of emissions, the future is bleak.
“Under a higher emissions trajectory, historically unprecedented warming is projected this century,” NOAA writes.
Previous NOAA data showed that Rhode Island has already exceeded the 2 degree Celsius warming threshold set by the United Nations. Scientists generally speculate that the Northeast is warming faster than the rest of the country due to its proximity to warming waters in the Atlantic Ocean.
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The state summaries, compiling data generally already known, also serve as a warning shot in New England for a growing likelihood of extreme turnout and sea level rise events occurring faster than the global rate. . The New England coast could see another 1 to 4 feet of sea level rise by 2100, the report says.
State-level summaries, which include approximately five pages for each U.S. state, present information on observed climate changes, long-term trends, and extreme weather events, while considering projected impacts of climate change. Below are the key findings from the NOAA summaries for each New England state.
Climate Change in Connecticut
Connecticut has experienced an approximate temperature increase of 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 120 years. And as climate change allows hurricanes to move further north up the coast, Connecticut could definitely see more activity.
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The report notes that Hurricane Sandy in 2012 exposed more than 10,000 coastal residents to “high and very high levels of storm surge”, with coastal flood levels ranging from 5 to 6 feet. More recently, parts of Connecticut were significantly impacted by Hurricane Ida in September 2021, with Governor Ned Lamont declaring a state of emergency.
Connecticut is seeing sea levels rise at a rate of 10 to 12 inches per century, according to the report, and could see between 1 and 4 feet higher by 2100.
Climate Change in Massachusetts
Massachusetts has warmed about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the turn of the 20th century. The city of Boston ended 2021 as its hottest year on record, and the state’s number of hot days has been significantly above the long-term average since 2010.
The rate of warming in Massachusetts, and more broadly in New England, will ultimately have a long-term impact on winters.
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“Projections indicate that more precipitation (12% to 30%) will fall as rain rather than snow, and there will be earlier lake break-up dates and reduced winter snowpack,” it reads. in the report. “As winters get warmer, the number of snow events is expected to drop from an average of five per winter month to one to three. The number of extreme precipitation events is also expected to more than double by the end of the winter. end of this century”, resulting in more coastal and inland flooding.
The NOAA report predicts the state could see between 1 and 4 feet more sea level rise by 2100. As water crept farther down the Massachusetts coast, the number of tidal flood days has increased – the most (22 days) occurring in Boston in both 2009 and 2017.
Climate Change in Maine
Temperatures in Maine have warmed nearly 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century and counting. Since the mid-1990s, the amount of winter warming has been about double the summer warming, the report says.
The Gulf of Maine has warmed faster than 99% of the world’s oceans. Surface temperatures in Maine’s coastal waters, the report says, have risen nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970.
Maine has seen a sea level rise of 7.4 inches since 1912, as measured in Portland, and could see between 1 and 4 feet more by 2100.
“Future projections of sea level rise show that some coastal towns and villages could lose up to 30% of their land area,” the NOA report said.
Climate Change in New Hampshire
New Hampshire temperatures have warmed more than 3 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 120 years or so. Like Maine, the majority of warming in New Hampshire has occurred during the winter season — with an increase of more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900 — impacting snowfall and snow cover.
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The city of Concord received about half of its normal snowfall during the 2015-2016 season. The number of snowy days is decreasing across the state.
New Hampshire has experienced “higher to much higher” annual precipitation totals for the past 16 years, the report said. Simultaneously, there are more short-term dry spells, such as the extreme droughts that occurred in 2016 and 2020.
The NOAA report predicts the state could see between 1 and 4 feet more sea level rise by 2100 and cites 15 declarations of major disasters by the Federal Emergency Management Agency between 2011 and 2020, nearly half of which were related to storms and flooding.
Climate Change in Rhode Island
Rhode Island has experienced the highest rate of warming of New England and of any US state – nearly 4 degrees Fahrenheit since the early 1900s. According to the NOAA report, the state has experienced its most large number of warm days and warm nights above the long-term average between 2015 and 2020.
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The report notes that Rhode Islanders could “experience more heat-related deaths, and because of the heat island effect, hotter conditions will be most dangerous in urban areas.”
Tide gauge records at Newport between 1930 and 2020 show an average rate of sea level rise of 0.11 inches per year, or about 11 inches over a century. Since 1930, the Newport area has seen more than 9 inches of sea level rise, the report says.
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“A two-foot sea level rise, with no change in storms, would more than triple the frequency of dangerous coastal flooding across much of the northeast,” NOAA writes.
Climate change in Vermont
The NOAA report says Vermont has warmed about 3 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century and more — the least of the six New England states given its distance from the Atlantic Ocean.
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Warming temperatures have extended Vermont’s frost-free season. Since 2005, the report says, the state’s frost-free season has averaged about a week longer than the 1970-2004 average.
According to the report, extreme weather events such as flooding and severe storms are having a greater impact on Vermont, and intense rainfall events are expected to become more frequent in the future. Some of the worst flooding in state history has been caused by tropical cyclones or their remnants, with NOAA pointing to Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, which caused more than $700 million in damage across Vermont .
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The NOAA report notes that Vermont is both susceptible to floods and droughts in the same year.