Famous for its quaint historic towns, mountainous and pastoral landscapes, rocky shores and sand beaches, Maine is also defined by its distinct climate. Weather changes rapidly from one day (or even hour) to the next, and from year to year, average conditions can vary widely. However, the general climate patterns that have remained fairly consistent since Europeans first landed on our shores are rapidly changing. No one needs to tell you that though, signs become clearer each year. Records show that spring is arriving sooner, summers are growing hotter, and winters are becoming warmer and less snowy.
In recent decades the characteristic climate of the Northeast has begun to change beyond what we have experienced in previous centuries. Patterns familiar to residents since recordkeeping began, including the arrival of the seasons, duration of snow cover, and timing of lake and river ice breakup, have been broken and new trends have begun to emerge. If global warming emissions continue to grow unabated, the Northeast can expect dramatic temperature increases over the course of this century.
These regional changes are part of the broader global warming trend. Today, virtually all scientists agree that the planet is warming and that this warming is driven by increasing levels of heat-trapping emissions (primarily carbon dioxide) from human activities such as the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas to generate electricity and fuel our cars. New projections show that climate changes already under way will continue to accelerate, although less drastically if we shift away from fossil fuels in favor of clean energy technologies. If we don’t, it could result in dramatic regional warming of 7 to 12°F on average by the end of the century. To put these projections into perspective, if we follow our current higher-emissions practices, the typical summer in upstate New York may feel like the present-day summer in South Carolina by the end of the century.
The choices we make today and in the coming years matter greatly. If the rate of emissions is lowered, projections show the changes will be significantly smaller. Emissions choices we make today—in the Northeast and worldwide—will help determine the climate our children and grandchildren inherit, and shape the consequences for their economy, environment, and quality of life. To read more about Climate Change in the US Northeast visit the Union of Concerned Scientists website.