Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Study on Climate Impacts on Adirondacks Released

Here is a press release from the Wild Center on the report on Adirondack climate change impacts which was first posted here at the Almanack earlier today. I’ve been live blogging the Wild Center’s climate conference today and will continue tomorrow – you can read all the posts here (start from the bottom).

From the Wild Center: An advance edition of a sixty-two page report detailing potentially radical shifts in the ecology and economy of the Adirondack region was released today as part of a climate change conference held at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. The document was produced by the Wildlife Conservation Society, and authored by Jerry Jenkins, with support from The Wild Center and The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

The report analyzed data from the Adirondacks and looked at projected changes based on a range of peer-reviewed climate change models. The report states that even if fossil fuel use were immediately reduced, the upstate New York region would still experience a warming of about six degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. The report details a recent rise in temperatures in the Adirondacks. Highlights of the report include:

* Significant change is already happening. Compared to thirty years ago, the Adirondacks are warmer and wetter, with longer springs and falls and shorter winters. Over the last century northern New York spring and summer temperatures have increased by about 2 degrees, and winter temperatures by about 5 degrees. Total precipitation has increased, and is about 13% greater than it was in 1960.

* The Adirondack seasons as they are currently known are undergoing major changes. In the last forty years, average winter temperatures have increased at a rate of 8.8 degrees per century. As a part of the general warming, the last frosts are coming about a week earlier in the spring and the first frosts about a week later in the fall than they did fifty years ago. The report predicts a possible radical drop in snow cover in the Adirondacks, with less than 45 days with snow on the ground in winter.

* Loss of ice cover on Adirondack lakes. The report tracks ice cover on Lake Champlain that shows a dramatic increase in the number of times the lakes failed to freeze over the past forty years. The lake remained open just three times between 1816 and 1916. The lake now remains open two winters out of every five.

* Potential loss of plant species. The report outlines a major and rapid shift in plant life, and a decrease in many signature tree species including maple, spruce and fir from the projected five degree rise in average temperatures.

* Bird species have shifted their ranges north. The report states that in New York State 25 new breeding birds have arrived in the past century; 13 in northern New York, and 9 in the Adirondack interior. The Adirondacks provide habitat for highly specialized species including Lincoln’s sparrow, gray jay, Bicknell’s thrush, spruce grouse, and the iconic common loon. Thirty-four Adirondack boreal birds are likely to disappear in the coming 30 years.

* Economic impacts. Winter recreation depends on cold weather and snow: the former is steadily decreasing and the latter is likely to do the same. Winter recreation is a major industry impacting many communities. Old Forge is the snowmobiling center of the Adirondacks, operating its own trail system and selling 10,000 trail passes each year. Seventy-eight of its 94 restaurants and inns stay open year round to support snowmobilers; 6 businesses sell, repair, or rent snowmobiles.

* The report also describes the science behind the role carbon pollution is playing in the current climate disruptions, and steps that can be taken to reduce levels of carbon pollution, including steps by individuals.

The climate conference where the report was issued is looking at ways Adirondack leaders can respond to climate change. Officially titled The American Response to Climate Change – The Adirondack Model: Using Climate Change Solutions to Restore a Rural American Economy, the conference will continue tomorrow. More than 190 national and regional leaders are gathered at The Wild Center to draft a plan to reduce the role of carbon on the Adirondack economy, and improve the region’s job and economic outlook through a new approach to energy. The effort, seeking to address a region the size of Massachusetts, is one of the largest such efforts in the United States.

A full report, the Adirondack Climate Action Plan, or ADK CAP will be issued after the conference. The final draft of the report on climate impacts in the Adirondacks is scheduled for publication in the summer of 2009.

Here is a link to the pdf of the 62-page report. I’m looking forward to seeing the action plan. More tomorrow.

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John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




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