The Heat Is Online

Warming Will Transform New England

 Northeast Could Warm Drastically by 2100 -- Study, Oct. 5, 2006

WASHINGTON - For those who love New England's mild summer weather, scientists have some advice: enjoy it while you can.

If greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current course, Massachusetts may feel more like sultry South Carolina by century's end, researchers said on Wednesday in a report on clear signs of global warming in the US Northeast.

The region, comprising nine of the 50 US states, is critical, since it alone is the world's seventh-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, just behind the entire nation of Germany and ahead of all of Canada, said Cameron Wake, a University of New Hampshire climate scientist and a co-author of the report.

"While we've been tracking global climate change from a scientific perspective, the way that we're going to experience this is on a regional and local level," Wake said by telephone. "So it's really important to perform these kinds of regional analyses around the globe. because some of the global signals in fact might be amplified locally."

A two-year study by the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment group found that, if emissions go unchecked, the US Northeast could see a rise in average summer temperatures of more than 12 degrees F (6.66 degrees C) by 2100.

However, the report stressed that even a 3 percent annual reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide would be enough to substantially lower the amount of warming and its effects.


"It provides a comprehensive view of where we're headed and what our options are," said Bruce Anderson of Boston University, a co-author of the study. "There are certainly things that are unavoidable at this point."

Climate changes already under way will continue to accelerate in the next few decades, whether the high-emissions or low-emissions path is taken, but the results will diverge dramatically by the time today's newborns reach middle age, the study found.

By the year 2100, there will be higher annual average temperatures, but under the low-emissions scenario, the temperature increase is projected to be between 3.5 degrees and 6.5 degrees F (1.94 degrees and 3.61 degrees C).

Cities will see more days of extreme heat, with 30 or more over 90 degrees F (32.22C) if the lower-emissions path is taken; the high-emissions road would see 60 or more extreme heat days.

Currently, Northeast cities have one or two days each year with temperatures over 100 degrees F (37.77C); by 2100, this number could increase to nine days even with lower emissions, and 14 to 28 days with higher emissions, the study said.

There would be less snow in winter and more frequent droughts in either case, but both these conditions would be more extreme if high emissions continue.

There would be more frequent, intense heavy rainfall under both scenarios, the researchers said.

The study was written by the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment, a collaboration between the Union of Concerned Scientists and independent scientists in the Northeast and around the United States.