'Hard evidence of climate changes' emerges in northeast US

The climate in the north-eastern parts of the USA has changed significantly, with those changes accelerating over the last 30 years, according to scientists.

Using long-term data on temperature, precipitation, frost dates, snowfall, bloom dates and other annually measured occurrences, experts from Clean Air: Cool Planet (CAAP) and the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) pinpointed changes to the region's climate in their report, Indicators of Climate Change in the Northeast.

"This report is probably the first to present a picture of how dramatic changes are occurring across a region of the US using a broad range of key indicators," executive director of CAAP Adam Markham stated.

"When data from all of these natural sources are viewed together, they are remarkably consistent, showing that warming is occurring and that it has been changing the climate in our region for some time."

New evidence for climate change uncovered by the report includes:

  • A significant decrease in snowfall (up to 60 inches annually)
  • A decrease of 16 days with snow on the ground over 30 years
  • Lake ice-out dates earlier by nine days in northern and mountainous regions and 16 days in southern parts of the region
  • An average advance in spring bloom dates of between four and eight days

    Climate researcher from UNH Cameron Wake said that the data also clearly showed an accelerating pace of change over the last 30 years.

    "The consistency of change across the region in a number of these indicators is particularly important, because this is what has not been shown before," he explained. "This is clearly the canary in the coal mine in terms of climate change for the north-east."

    He added that most of the data had been collected by various government agencies for decades but that some had never before been analysed for trends and there had not been a previous effort to publish the trends together.

    The first hard evidence of climate change occurring in the oceans was unveiled in a report by scientists in California last month (see related story), but this is the first time that proof has been shown on land in the US.

    Dr Markham said that the straightforward presentation of the science in the report was important to its relevance.

    "There is no speculation here," he stated. "This is hard evidence of real climate changes. The negative consequences of these changes will eventually be seen I impacts on air quality and the health of our region's people as well as on our agriculture, winter sports economy and our most precious ecosystems."

    "Taken together, these indicators provide a clear case for action to cap and control the emissions of greenhouse gases."

    By Jane Kettle

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