Connecticut Climate is in for Big Changes

Laina Hancock

This past winter was mild, and spring has evidently arrived early. The crocuses bloomed weeks ahead of time, as can be seen in posts across social media.

Climate change is here in Connecticut, and that is why our chapter of the Sierra Club has put measures to reduce carbon emissions as priority in the chapter’s Strategic Plan.

Many do not realize that the North East is one of the fastest warming regions in the lower 48. A recent report from the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) indicates that this is par for the course in the coming century.

The researchers looked to climate models as well as observed trends to show what we can expect for Connecticut’s climate by the year 2100. Climate models are powerful in that they can give us a glimpse into the future.

As greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane are released into the atmosphere, they blanket the Earth, and this blanket reduces the amount of solar radiation from the Sun that is released back to space. The degree of the disruption in the planet’s energy balance can be calculated using data on current and potential carbon emissions data.

Connecticut Climate is in for Big Change

Photo: Map of Connecticut Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge Viewer from the Climate Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaption

Photo credit: CIRCA Data Viewers

An extreme example of what an atmosphere comprised of large quantities of carbon dioxide means for a planet's ambient temperature can be seen with Venus. Though not the closest to the sun, Venus is the warmest planet in the solar system. Why? Venus' atmosphere is largely CO2. While Earth’s atmosphere is comprised of just 0.04% CO2, it is evident that tinkering with the delicate carbon balance can spell big changes.

Some of the trends we can expect to see in Connecticut by 2050:

  • Significant rise in annual temperatures -- the average annual temperature is expected to increase by 5°F.

  • Increase in heat waves from 4 days per year to over 50 per year by 2050.

  • Frost days will decrease from 124 days to as few as 85.

  • An increase in the number of warm nights that stay above 68°F, called tropical nights, from less than ten in the 1950s to around 45 by 2050.

  • More heavy rain events are expected. These are where one or more inches of rain falls in a 24 hour period of time.

 

The outlook shows that we are in for big changes by 2050, just 30 years away. If you were old enough to remember 1990, that puts things into perspective. Anji Seth, one of the researchers and authors of the CIRCA report, points out that due to the inertia of the energy already in the system -- the greenhouse gases emitted thus far and their resulting warming effects -- the physics has us locked in to the changes expected for mid century. However, the decisions we make TODAY will impact how much change we experience beyond 2050. If we start reducing our emissions, drastically and quickly, we can have a very different second half of the century.

For more information on what changes we can expect in the coming century, the report can be found at: Connecticut Physical Climate Science Assessment Report.

 

Laina Hancock serves on the Communications Committee for Sierra Club Connecticut.