The Two Degree Difference: Explaining climate and how is it changing locally

Two Degree Difference

According to NOAA scientists, since 1880 our planet’s global temperatures has warmed by two degrees Fahrenheit. With just this two degree difference we have lost billions of tons of ice from Antarctica, watched sea levels rise nearly eight inches and continue to see warming oceans in turn harming precious habitats.

While you might not notice these two degrees in an every day forecast, here at home more and more subtle signs are pointing to a warming climate. This can have some big implications to local ecosystems, industries and recreation.

Firstly, there is a big difference between weather and climate. Weather is on a scale of hours, days, months and even years. Climate has a much larger time scale, looking at the average of weather conditions over thirty years or more.

Think of it this way, weather tells you what you need to wear each day while climate tells you what types of clothes you have in your closet. Like shorts or snow pants.

“Locally,  we see variations that depend on proximity to a water body, like Lake Champlain, elevation differences, like we see in the Northeast Kingdom and the fact that the southeast part of the state is more like Massachusetts and New Hampshire because it is lower in elevation, and does not receive the moderating impacts of Lake Champlain itself.” said Vermont State Climatologist Dr. Leslie-Ann Dupigny Giroux.

Dr. Dupigny Giroux also says Vermont climate as a whole can be classified as a humid continental with warm muggy summers and cold, snowy winters.

“If you think about how the climate changes we need to look at it from a multi scale perspective, but we also need to look at it from a variable perspective” she continues.

Our average temperatures continue to rise in the state of Vermont. The average annual maximum temperature statewide increased by about .4 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1960, while minimum temperatures rose by .6 degrees Fahrenheit per decade.

Many are already seeing the results of these differences, including less lake and pond freeze overs, earlier springs and longer growing seasons. These changes can have major impacts on local businesses, the economy and ways of life.

“It’s not just precipitation and not just temperatures. But it’s also, are the droughts getting more severe or are we dealing with more flooding?” said Dr. Dupigny Giroux.

As we continue this series we are diving into the local impacts these changes are having in our community. From Vermont’s beloved maple syrup, to the booming beer scene, changes in our climate are causing countless industries to adjust and adapt.

Next week we are diving head first into the leaves. The foliage is in full force in Northern New England and New York, but how has this summers dry conditions and warm temperatures played a roll on the gorgeous fall colors?

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