Climate scientists at the University of NH in Durham released a report at the end of June cautioning that the Granite State has become warmer and wetter since the 1970s. The state can expect a new normal with higher temperatures and more extreme precipitation events if changes are not made to reduce emissions and greenhouse gases as well as transition to efficient low carbon sources of energy.
“This is not something that is just a problem for the future,” says Cameron Wake, research professor in climatology and glaciology. “Human driven climate change is happening now, and we’re at a critical crossroads. Those trends could get exponentially worse if we don’t take some action to slow the process and rapidly decrease emissions.”
The 2021 NH Climate Assessment Report warns that an increase in summer heat without more rain could lead to drier summer weather and potentially more drought.
The state’s winters, which attract thousands of recreationists, are warming more rapidly than any other season. Winter temperatures are expected to be an additional 10 degrees higher by the end of the century and could lead to earlier snowpack melt and an earlier ice-out on the state’s lakes, which is a real concern for the state’s multimillion-dollar winter recreation industry as well as other weather dependent industries.
Researchers project the increase could be contained closer to a 6-degree temperature rise if emissions were lowered. The study also points to a warmer and longer spring and fall and shows that annual rainfall, which has increased more than eight inches since 1901, is expected to increase another 7% to 9% by the middle of the century. Most of this increase is projected to happen because of an increase in heavy precipitation events which could significantly increase the risk of flooding impacting everything from roads to real estate.
“There’s not only a concern about warming temperatures but also more extreme weather events,” says Mary Stampone, associate professor of geography and NH state climatologist. “For instance, an increase in the amount of rain could threaten the state’s infrastructure because many of our storm water systems, built decades ago, were not designed for the higher surface runoff we see now, let alone what we expect in the coming decades. We’re already seeing these issues along the Seacoast.”
To view the full report, visit scholars.unh.edu/sustainability/71.