Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I hope this is not a last hurrah

Snow and snow-making at Roundtop
Now this is winter! In fact, I’d be just as happy if that wind wasn’t so strong. This morning I awakened to a temperature of 10 degrees F (that’s -12C, for non-U.S citizens). The overnight forecast was for a balmy 20 degrees, so the weather people really got that one wrong. And the temperature won’t even near the freezing mark again for a solid week.

This is the kind of weather that makes it difficult to talk about climate change. Still, I won’t let that stop me. Over the weekend I watched a local show about how warmer weather will affect Pennsylvania and afterward read some Pennsylvania-funded studies about the topic. I was mostly interested in the effects of climate change in practical terms for Pennsylvania by the end of this century. At the moment it appears there are two choices—the best case scenario is that our climate becomes more like Virginia’s is today. The worst case scenario is that we end with Georgia’s climate.

The result of either will have a big impact on our state’s agriculture, assuming the state isn’t paved over with macadam by then. Pennsylvania’s famous apples? You can forget about them. Apples like cooler temperatures; they aren’t grown in Georgia for a reason. Pennsylvania’s wine industry? Grapes like cooler temperatures, too. Pennsylvania’s state tree, the eastern hemlock? Ditto. Sweet corn? Ditto.

Ski resorts? Forget about them. Snowmobiling? Gone. Some of the state’s most prized hardwood species, such as sugar maple, American beech and black cherry? Gone. The dairy industry? On life support, probably, as heat stresses cows. Changes in bird life are expected from loss of habitat or habitat changes as a result of the warming climate.

And there’s more. Winter temperatures are now projected to rise 8 degrees above historic level and summer temperatures are projected to rise 11 degrees. What this means is that the southern half of the state can be expected to endure 70 days a year with temperatures higher than 90 degrees. And in the southern tier cities, up to 24 days in excess of 100 degrees is considered likely, compared with the current 1-2 days.

The snow season will essentially disappear, and overall precipitation is projected to rise more than 10 percent. Currently, about ¾’s of the state enjoys at least one inch of snow cover for 30 days in a year. That figure will shrink to about half of the current situation.

The picture is not a good one, which is why I have to grit my teeth every time I hear someone exclaim how much better they like this warmer weather. I’m just glad I won’t be around to see the worst of it.


Scott said...

Some Republican legislator from Kentucky I heard on the radio this morning said the jury's still out on the human influence on climate change. I guess it's progress that he admits that there's climate change...

Carolyn H said...

Scott: I'm still trying to decide if that's progress or not. Actually, what does scare me is if the human-causes of climate change turn out to be less than predicted, which would mean there's little we can do to slow the changes. I'd like to think strong and decisive action could lessen the impacts and the changes.

Granny Sue said...

My oldest son, whose opinion I generally respect when it comes to weather, does not think there is a warming trend or climate change in effect. Makes me scratch my head but I suppose by the time it all comes about he and I will both be gone. I do not like the warm winters we've had and it seems like a no-brainer that our own activity is causing it.

Cathy said...

Ugh, not looking forward to those forecasted warmer temp in summer. Cold I can manage to a point but the heat. Ugh, it really drain me if it gets to high.