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Impacts of Climate Change in New York

What happens when the climate changes?

Already Happening

New York's ClimAID report (2011, 2014) (link leaves DEC), the National Climate Assessment (2014) (link leaves DEC), and other research show that a variety of climate change impacts have already been observed in New York and across the northeastern United States:

Temperature

Skeptical Science - Indicators of a Warming World
  • The annual average temperature statewide has risen about 2.4°F since 1970, with winter warming exceeding 4.4°F.
  • This equates to an increase of about 0.25°F per decade since 1900.
  • Annual average temperatures have increased in all regions of the state.

Precipitation

  • Overall, average annual precipitation has increased across New York State since 1900, with year-to-year (and multiyear) variability becoming more pronounced.
  • New York is getting more precipitation in the winter and less precipitation in the summer.
  • Between 1958 and 2010, the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy events (downpours) increased more than 70% across the northeastern United States.

Sea-level rise

  • Sea levels along New York's coast have already risen more than a foot since 1900.
  • New York's rate of rise (about 1.2 in per decade) is almost twice the observed global rate (0.7 inches per decade) over the same period.

Natural resources

  • Spring begins a week earlier than it did a few decades ago; in many areas of New York, the first leaf date is more than 8 days earlier and the first bloom date is more than 4 days earlier than in the 1950s.
  • Winter snow cover is decreasing.
  • Pollinating bees in the northeastern United States arrive about 10 days earlier than they did in the 1880s.
  • New York breeding bird and oceanic fish population ranges have shifted northward over the last several decades.

Future Scenarios

Carbon dioxide and other potent greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere for decades or even centuries, guaranteeing ongoing change even as we reduce emissions. We have already "locked in" some climate change, the real questions are how much? and how quickly? Without an immediate and concerted effort to reduce greenhouse gas we will continue to observe temperature increases and associated impacts.

Temperature

  • Modelling shows that New York should anticipate more warming. Compared to the 1971-2000 period, average temperature will be
    • up to 3°F warmer by the 2020s.
    • up to 6°F warmer by the 2050s.
    • up to 10°F warmer by the 2080s.
  • The most warming is expected to occur in northern NYS.
  • By 2100, our growing season could be about a month longer, with intense summers (extreme heat and heat waves) and milder winters.

Precipitation

  • Modelling shows that New York is also likely to experience more precipitation and more variability in precipitation. Compared to the 1971-2000 period, average precipitation in New York will increase
    • up to 8% by the 2020s.
    • up to 12% by the 2050s.
    • up to 15% by the 2080s.
  • By 2100, the biggest precipitation increases are projected for northern NYS and in the winter months.
Image from Flickr/JulieG - signs showing sea level rise

Sea-level Rise, Storm Surge, and Flooding

By the 2050s, sea level is expected to be as much as 30 inches (2.5 feet) higher in New York's coastal area, as compared with sea level averaged for 2000-2004. By 2100, New York's coast could see up to 6 feet of sea-level rise. New York is very vulnerable to the impacts of sea-level rise, including storm surge and coastal flooding.

In 2014, Governor Cuomo signed the Community Risk and Resiliency Act (CRRA) to ensure that applicants for specific permits or funding demonstrate that future climate risks due to sea-level rise, storm surge and flooding have been considered, and have been incorporated into certain facility-siting regulations.

CRRA also requires New York to promulgate a regulation establishing official projections of sea-level rise.

Climate Change and Health

Climate change poses a variety of health risks. Widespread impacts may occur as a result of warmer temperatures increasing pollen production in plants and ground-level ozone formation, which exacerbates asthma, allergies, and other respiratory conditions.

Changed climate conditions also look to favor the survival of insects and disease carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks, making West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and other diseases more prevalent and opening the door to new pests and diseases.


More about Impacts of Climate Change in New York:

  • Sea Level Rise - Assessed impacts to the state's coastlines from rising seas and developed recommendations for protective and adaptive measures. The Task Force delivered its final report to the Legislature on December 31, 2010.
  • Climate Change and Health - This page provides offsite links to other state and federal agencies that address the effect of climate change on public health.