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It's not too late

06/07/2007

By Roger Hill

As we enter the 2007 hurricane season, many are asking what does a changing climate associated with global warming have in store for us. There are many different factors that influence the severity of hurricanes, their frequency and whether or not they stay out at sea or wreak havoc on land. Some have been linked with global warming and others are not. 

According to recent scientific reports the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes, the most powerful, has increased 75 percent since 1970. Similarly, last year researchers led by Carlos D. Hoyos of the Georgia Institute of Technology analyzed the frequency of Category 4 and 5 storms and concluded that their increased frequency since 1970 was "directly linked to the trend in sea-surface temperature,'' which is increasing.

Clearly, Vermont is not ground zero for most hurricanes, but we are seeing weather of our own that is changing due to climate change. These changes will damage our environment and cost our economy.

Vermont winters are already changing. We will continue to see more heavy, wet snows and ice storms that will increase the likelihood of power outages with each winter storm. An increase in the freeze-thaw cycle will confuse and damage existing eco-systems of Vermont's lakes, ponds and rivers.  Eventually snow may be confined to the highest tops of the mountains making winter recreation a thing of the past. Strong winter storms like the one earlier this April that caused significant damage in Rutland may be linked as well. But it is not too late to save our winters.

As we saw this past January, mud season will not be confined to spring but will occur frequently through winter costing more money to maintain town roads and infrastructure.  Higher global temperatures also mean more water vapor, eventually wiping out the conditions needed for maple sugaring. Thunderstorm frequency will likely go up, bringing earlier threats of severe weather. But it is not too late to save our springs.

Our summers will be marked by an increase in humidity and haze, with a higher incidence of thunderstorm activity that can often mean more frequent flooding. Thunderstorms will often include wind damage much like which just occurred recently in Burlington and Barre, and even the incidence of "tornadic thunderstorms" will rise. But it is not too late to save our summers.

Our fall foliage season will dull over time. Frosts associated with late September and October will be moved back into November and toward the holiday season in future years. But it is not too late to save our falls.

The good news is that if Vermont does its part to cut global warming pollution and provide an example for other states to follow, our future can and will be brighter. It is not too late, but we better get serious soon and passing strong global warming legislation is a good place to start.

Roger Hill is the weatherman for WDEV in Waterbury.
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