Vermont's Changing Climate - Climatological Impacts

VERMONT - Vermont is seeing firsthand some of the impacts of climate change. The University of Vermont has been conducting research into the impacts of climate change on the state and has compiled its findings into a user-friendly website for the public to access its findings. 

The results that the University found are certainly concerning, especially in terms of impacts on specific industries across the state. While the effects of climate change are being felt across the county, the impacts will soon be felt closer to home.

"There is strong evidence that Vermont's climate is changing. Vermont is becoming warmer, with the average annual temperature about two degrees warmer since 1900, and Vermont's winters are becoming warmer more quickly, as winter temperatures have warmed 2.5x more quickly than the average annual temperature since 1960. Vermont is also becoming wetter since average annual precipitation has increased by 21% or 7.5 inches since 1900. However, Vermont still experiences prolonged droughts because of shifts in the water cycle, and different regions of Vermont can experience different climate impacts."

While these statistics sound very similar to the ones that Scott Whittier mentioned when I spoke with him, it only puts physical numbers to the problem at hand. What those numbers don't show is how communities are being impacted with increased flooding events, a big concern for people living in the Northeast Kingdom. Not to mention how the increase in average temperature is related to the warmer winters we have been seeing, resulting in reduced seasons for winter recreation. Considering that this is a big factor in Vermont's tourism industry, it's important to better understand climate change and its impacts.

Another big industry in Vermont is forestry. While impacts haven't been widely discussed, they are starting to be seen across the state. With conditions becoming more favorable for southern-adapted trees, we could see the currently adapted tree species get pushed out of the region. This could include sugar maples, balsam firs, yellow birch, and black ash all could be negatively impacted by a warming climate more favorable to southern-adapted trees.

"Forest productivity, an important indicator of forest health and carbon storage, is amplified by a longer growing season and greater atmospheric carbon dioxide and is expected to increase in Vermont in the next 50–100 years. However, productivity will be highly variable by species and will likely begin to decrease by the end of the century as high summer temperatures, drought, and soil nutrient loss outweigh benefits."

While forest productivity is currently showing good forest health for the state, climate change has already begun to shape the landscape in different ways. With the report showing that we could see forest productivity become negatively impacted over the next 50 to 100 years, it sends up a great concern if we would like to preserve the state for generations to come. While legislation is currently being worked on to try to mitigate some of the issues currently being experienced, it's important for Vermonters to educate themselves on the impacts of climate change. The University hopes that this guide can be used to ask more questions and inspire people to take action to help with the change.