“Intense rains and floods, summer droughts and heat waves are more common than they were in our grandparents’ time. New York’s climate will continue to change over the next 10, 20, and 100 years,” he added.
According to the presentation, average temperatures across the Northeastern United States have risen by more than 2 degrees since 1970 and winter temperatures are 4 degrees warmer. In New York, Comstock said, there has been an increase in the number of extremely hot summer days (above 9 degres ) and a decrease in the number of cold winter days (below 32 degrees). In the future, he said, New Yorkers can expect an increase in average temperature to rise 4 to 8 degrees depending on continued emissions and land use.
What does all of this mean? According to Comstock, growers can expect longer growing seasons, but will also have to deal with an increase in heat and drought stress.
Total precipitation amounts have increased slightly in the Northeast, by approximately 3.3 inches over the last 100 years. Even more dramatically, Comstock said, there has been a 67 percent increase in the number of 2-inch rainfall events occurring over a 48-hour period since the 1950s. He said in the future, New Yorkers can expect:
• An increase in average annual precipitation of up to 5 percent by 2020; 10 percent by the 2050s; and 15 percent by the 2080s.
• Changing precipitation patterns, with increased precipitation in the winter, and decreased precipitation in late summer or fall.
• Lower rainfall amounts in the summer may increase the frequency of drought, and may negatively affect the ability of small drinking water supply systems to meet demand.
• Decreased snow cover, by as much as 25 to 50 percent by the end of the next century, jeopardizing opportunities for skiing, snowmobiling and other forms of winter recreation; natural ecosystems will also be affected by the changing snow cover.