New England May Warm By 2°C Two Decades Before the Rest of World

In 2025, New England—with its rugged coastlines, majestic lighthouses, and notoriously tough winters—may be the first in the world to weather the 3.6° F average temperature rise that’s being lamented amongst scientists and policymakers.

According to a new study published in PLOS One, the region is vulnerable to more dramatic changes due to its high latitude, its position relative to westward prevailing winds, and the rise of temperatures in the Gulf of Maine. These factors not only make it a hotspot—literally—for accelerated warming, they also portend wet winters and increased flooding (whereas the Northwest will experience drier summers and lengthy droughts).

Within the United States, the Northeast is warming more rapidly than any other part of the country except Alaska. By the time the global average temperature rises to that dreaded 3.6° F (2° C) above pre-industrial levels, the Northeast will have warmed by 3° C—that is, unless we do something to stop it.

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Edgartown Lighthouse on Martha's Vineyard

Here’s David Abel, reporting for The Boston Globe:

The scientists found that the Northeast is warming more rapidly than any other part of the country except Alaska—and that the 3.6 degree Fahrenheit rise in the region is likely to come two decades before the rest of the world gets to that point.

“I tell my students that they’re going to be able to tell their children, ‘I remember when it used to snow in Boston,’ ” said Ray Bradley, an author of the study and director of the Climate System Research Center at the University of Massachusetts. “We’ll have occasional snow, but we won’t have weeks and weeks of snow on the ground.”

Lack of snow might not sound like a big deal. What’s perhaps more alarming is that by the end of this century, this warming could cause sea levels around Boston to rise more than 10 feet—putting nearly a third of the city under water.

Even the Paris climate accord—which President-elect Donald Trump will probably attempt to exit—may not be enough to stall this 2° C of warming. The authors of the study say that, in addition to combatting carbon emissions and fossil fuel usage, researchers need to pay more attention to regional differences in the rate of warming in order to influence policy and alleviate devastation across the globe.