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Impacts of Climate Change in New York

Climate Change is Already Happening

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

Warmer Temperatures

Skeptical Science - Indicators of a Warming World
  • The annual average temperature statewide has risen about 2.4°F since 1970.
  • Annual average temperatures have increased in all regions of the state.
  • More warming will occur, mostly in the northern parts of New York.

More Rain and Snow

  • Overall, average annual precipitation has increased across New York State since 1900.
  • New York is getting more rain and snow in the winter and less in the summer.
  • Increased precipitation is expected to continue, with more frequent storm events and heavier downpours.

Sea-level Rise

  • Sea levels along New York's coast have already risen more than a foot since 1900.
  • New York's coastal counties are home to more than half of New Yorkers.
  • By 2100, sea levels will be 18 to 50 inches higher than today along New York's coastlines.
  • Sea-level rise is locked in for centuries, by heat-trapping greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. Continuing or increasing emissions will speed up the rise to higher levels.
  • Energy, land use, and infrastructure decisions made now will determine how vulnerable our children and grandchildren will be to rising sea-levels.

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's breeding bird and oceanic fish population ranges have shifted northward over the last several decades.
Signs depicting sea level rise
Photo courtesy of Julie G. via Flickr

Health Risks

Certain people are more vulnerable to emerging climate change impacts. Climate change raises health risks for people with existing physical or mental illness, children and older adults, those who work outdoors, and those living along the coast or in areas prone to flooding. Climate change can lead to weather events and conditions that are associated with health hazards, such as:

  • Heat waves, which can cause heat-related illnesses, heat stroke, and other serious health problems. Heat waves also can make it more likely that people who already have heart, lung, or other chronic conditions might get sick.
  • Warmer temperatures, which can expand ranges for disease-carrying insects, and also can increase pollen production and air pollution. Pollen and pollution raise risks for people who suffer from asthma; infectious diseases transmitted by mosquito and tick bites (such as Lyme disease or West Nile Virus) may appear in previously unaffected locations when the insects' range expands.
  • Changing precipitation patterns such as drought and flooding may take the form of extreme events that directly cause human injury or death. Less extreme changes may affect public health in other ways - for example, by reducing the availability of water for drinking and other human needs, or by creating damp conditions in homes, schools, and workplaces that promote mold and other pests.
  • Disruptions to agriculture from frequent drought, flooding, and unseasonal heat or frost events can interfere with successful food production. Altered growing and storage conditions could require changes in crop and livestock species or food production practices, promote emerging pathogens or affect the movement of environmental contaminants into food supplies.