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> Imacts on Burlington, Vermont and the Northeast
Imacts on Burlington, Vermont and the Northeast
The impacts of climate change on Burlington, Vermont, and the Northeast range from temperature and precipitation changes, species shifting, including Vermont’s prized Sugar Maple Tree, detrimental impacts on the ski industry, and impacts on infrastructure, among many others.
For more information on the impacts Climate Change currently has and will continue to have on our natural environment in Vermont, visit our parent site (http://www.birdandmoon.com/climate) developed by Rosemary Mosco, a graduate student at the University of Vermont.
Temperature and Precipitation Changes
Since 1900, the average temperature in the Northeast has increase 1.5°F. In the next 20 to 30 years, temperatures are projected to continue increasing more in winter (from 2.5°F to 4°F) than in summer (1.5°F to 3.5°F). As you can see from the figure below, temperatures are expected to rise on average 7°F by the end of the century, by which we will be having summers similar to those in Virginia. Currently we experience around five days per year with temperatures exceeding 90°F. By late-century, we can expect nine times that number, with 45 days per year exceeding 90°F.
Figure: Changes in Regional Average Summer Temperatures
The Northeast is projected to see a 10% increase (about four inches per year) in annual precipitation by the end of the century. Winter precipitation is expected to increase by 20% to 30%, but because of a prediction in temperatures, more and more of this precipitation is going to fall as rain. As a consequence of more precipitation in the winter, whether it falls as rain or snow, more flooding of rivers and streams is expected in the springtime. Rainfall is expected to be more intense and heavy rainfall is expected to be more frequent, resulting in adverse affects to “water quality and outbreaks of waterborne disease, replenishment of groundwater supplies, soil erosion, and flood risks both in urban areas and agricultural fields in the Northeast” (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007).
Species Shifting and Maple Syrup
Species are going to try to stay in their normal temperature range. Therefore, if Vermont has temperatures like those in Virginias in the summer, we can expect to start having the same species that reside in Virginia. In addition, first-leaf and first-bloom dates are projected to arrive around two days earlier per decade — arriving almost two weeks earlier by the end of the century. Many plant and tree species in the Northeast are blooming four to eight days earlier. What does this mean? It means that peak abundance in food is occurring before the peak abundance of animals. Animals are not able to adapt fast enough to have their young earlier to capitalize on the peak abundance of food and in turn are starving.
Vermont is a leader in maple syrup production, boasting 44% of the regions production, valued at $11 million per year. As an iconic part of Vermont’s winter culture, as well as providing seasonal jobs and an important tourism draw, changes in sugar maple trees will directly affect Vermont’s economy. Maple syrup production is expected to be impacted in two ways. First, warmer temperatures diminish the quantity and quality of sap flow. It is also shortening the tapping season and causing it to start earlier and not last as long. Second, and perhaps more alarming, as the climate suitable for sugar maples, which currently exists in Vermont, shifts northward, sugar maples may shift northward as well, leaving Vermont with a decline in sugar maple trees (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007).
Impacts on the Ski Industry
The Northeast’s ski resorts represent one-fourth of the U.S. skiing and snowboarding market. While hosting 4.1 million skiers during the 2009 – 2010 season, Vermont's ski resorts generate more than $1.1 billion annually. Most of the Northeast is projected to lose around 10 snow-covered days per winter month. Fewer frost days and a severe decrease in snowpack is expected, which will directly affect the tourism industry in the region. By late-century, “the northern part of the region, currently snow-covered for almost the entire winter season, is projected to lose up to half of its snow-covered days under the higher-emissions scenario, or more than one-quarter under the lower-emissions scenario” (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007).
Impacts on Infrastructure
Changing weather patterns will result in more heavy and intense rainfall and snowmelt. Not only will this lead to flooded basements and disrupted travel due to flooded roads, but it will also tax the capacity of our treatment systems, impacting Lake Champlain and our drinking water supply. More frequent and intense rainfall events can also cause direct flooding damage to above-ground utility facilities and buried infrastructure.
Higher temperatures will also boost demand for cooling systems, adding stress to our regional energy grid and leading to the likelihood of brown and black-outs. This, of course, has a financial cost to our community — as does the potential need for additional fire and police services. For example, anecdotal evidence from other New England communities shows that domestic violence increases during heat waves (CCAP, 2009).
More frequent prolonged periods of higher temperatures will also take its toll on road surfaces and sidewalks, increasing the maintenance needed due to heat damage (ICLEI, 2007) and the demand for new or upgraded flood control and erosion control structures (CCAP, 2009).
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