Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Autumn is Warming at the Fastest Rate

WPTZ meteorologist Tom Messner reported a record high (65°F) in Montpelier Monday. The low (46°) in Saranac Lake yesterday was higher than the average high for November 14 (43°), according to Weather Underground. Last week, on November 9, Saranac Lake broke a record when the temperature reached 67°.

As much as the odd warm fall day seems to take us by surprise, temperature fluctuations are a normal part of the transition to winter. But it is strange to see fresh sprouts in the garden, which is ordinarily frozen by now.

Autumn is warming more rapidly than any other season locally, evidenced by records kept between 1975 and 2005. Paleoclimatologist Curt Stager, of Paul Smith’s College, last year analyzed data averaged from eight U.S. Historical Climatology Network stations throughout the Champlain Basin. He found that the most significant warming occurred in the fall, with an increase of 3.6°F in average temperature; year-round temperatures rose 2.1°F.

Adirondackers tend to fixate on ice-out, but Stager points out that ice-in is having a greater impact on lake cover duration. “For example, freeze-up at Mirror Lake [in Lake Placid] now comes 12 days later than it did in 1910, but spring ice-out arrives only two days earlier, and that smaller change is not statistically significant,” he concluded in Climate Change in the Champlain Basin: what natural resource managers can expect and do, a report sponsored by the Adirondack and Vermont chapters of the Nature Conservancy (and co-authored by me) in 2010. See page 10 of the report for more detail on temperature trends.

Graphs by Curt Stager, from Climate Change in the Champlain Basin. Caption: Temperatures averaged from eight USHCN weather stations in the Champlain Basin 1976–2005. The only statistically significant linear warming trends were in the annual, summer and autumn records.

You can also follow Curt on his FastCompany blog

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Mary Thill

Mary Thill lives in Saranac Lake and has worked alternately in journalism and Adirondack conservation for three decades.




3 Responses

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