Inland New York 2050 Forecast Script

This is Dr. Emily Schoerning with AR, and I’d like to say hello to all our friends in the state of New York!  This is a big state, and it’s a state with an intensely local forecast.  The climate right now in Buffalo is different from central New York is different from New York City, and those differences are going to become more pronounced over the next 30 years.  This whole area is very sensitive, looking at a wide range of climate outcomes, so if you’re in a bordering state, please don’t look at the New York forecast and assume you’re looking at similar projections for your area.  FYI, I’m scheduled to have New Jersey up January 7th, just give me a little more time and you all will have the info you need for your home state. 

But, back to New York!  This state has such a wild range of projections, I had to break it down into Part 1- which will focus on everything away from the ocean- and Part 2, where we’ll look at New York City and Long Island.  Inland New York has a positive and challenging and really complicated forecast.  In part 2 we’ll look at the extremely serious challenges that will be faced by some of the most populous and most vulnerable parts of the state.

Here’s what we’re going to see  today- first, we’ll look at the freeze free period, see how that will change and how it’ll impact seasonality.  Then we’ll check out summer heat, and then winter lows through plant hardiness zones.  After that, I’ll give you a heads up about predicted changes to precipitation.  Okay?  Let’s get going. 

So, starting with our projected changes in the freeze free period.  682.  You’ll see for most of the state, you’re looking at a 2 week earlier spring, not too much change in the fall frost, maybe a week.  But there are some areas where we expect much bigger changes locally.  Around the great lakes here, for example, you can see the fall frost will be substantially delayed under the low emissions scenario for 2050, which I do think is the most likely scenario under our current legal framework. 

This let us get a look at changes in our seasonality, our seasonal patterns.  And when I say that, I mean when does the spring come, when does the fall come.  So let’s look a little deeper, look at changes within the seasons.  This is an interesting map we’re going to look at, see how the summer is projected to change around 2050. (USDA HEAT MAP)

Some really big changes there, some major increases in summer intensity.  And, already, just using two sources of data, we can see that there are a ton of different microclimates in the state of New York, and that those microclimates are going to be moving and changing in complex ways.  Let’s talk about Albany and Rochester for a minute.  They’re both looking hot on this map.  But if you remember the last map we looked at, with the seasonality, Rochester had a big projected increase in the frost-free period, while Albany showed very little change.  So I’d interpret this, that probably in Rochester you’re looking at a longer, hotter summer, whereas in Albany, the summer heat might be more contained to the current summer period. 

I think it’s worth noting that there are plenty of places in central New York where we’ll still have relatively cool summers.  And I think if you reflect back on the seasonality, we are looking at part of upstate New York, here, with these cool summers, this part had relatively little change in the growing season, this one had an projected significant extension to the growing season.  So you’re looking at just an incredibly diverse projected landscape.  In this state, whatever microclimate you’re looking for, you’re probably going to be able to find it.   And as we start wrapping our heads around this, let’s go a level deeper, add a third layer of data.  Now we’re going to look at projected changes in winter lows, which we can interpret from the plant hardiness zones.  (USDA HARDI MAP)

Look at the key here, you can see that shows the average winter low temperature.  You can see that there’s a substantial shift here as the winters get warmer, but that in north/central New York we do see a lot of cool-weather conservation in the projections.  It’ll still be cold enough for snow in much of the state, but it will be less frequent in these areas that are shifting towards green, more like in Virginia today, and down here as you approach the coast you’re looking at a projected changes where snow will be really very rare, kinda like in the Carolinas today. 

Now, the size of some of these changes may be alarming.  And they’re serious, but let’s take a minute to acknowledge that some of these big changes, like we see around the Great Lakes, they’re not shifting towards necessarily unpleasant climates.  We’re talking about a shift towards the climates we see today in, say, Virginia.  So I wouldn’t panic, but I would prepare, because what we have here is a great challenge.  These changes are coming faster than landscapes can change naturally.  To create our best possible future, our best 2050, we need to think about how we can support these landscape transitions.  Lots of really important gardening and land management work to do, that’s for sure.  And the federal government is beginning to release information on recommended infill species, new species to bring up to this area, so we will be able to do this work with guidance from scientists with the USDA.

But, back to the forecast.  Let’s talk some more about the snow, let’s talk about precipitation.  In these areas where you’re expecting less snow, please note that the precipitation isn’t going away, it’s that the precipitation is more likely to fall as rain.  Buffalo especially.  Most people, when they think of Buffalo they think of snow.  But much of that snow is projected to shift towards rain, towards winter rain as we move towards and past mid-century.  You should expect to see more conservation of a typical winter, a winter marked by snowcover, in the north central part of the state.  And all across the state, you should expect more extreme storms, and you should prepare for more extreme storms.  This state is within the area projected to be at risk from more frequent and larger diameter hail, on top of all the storms you’re used to. 

So, let’s take a minute to wrap this up.  When you consider the New York forecast, you really need to look at the data right where you are.  This is going to be a state with such an incredible diversity of microclimates, such incredible landscape diversity.  Anything you want to grow, it looks like you’ll be able to find a place.  There are challenges to be sure, particularly related to extreme weather and increased hail, but if you’re interested in meeting these challenges, you can really imagine what kind of place you want in terms of seasonality, summer highs and winter lows, and look for a fit.  And if you’re anchored, if you’re in the place you want to be, this forecast gives you the information you need about what changes to expect, so that you can get ready for any adjustments you’ll need to make.  The challenges ahead are big, don’t get me wrong, but there’s so much good here.  The water outlook all across the state is good, this state has just incredible potential.     

This is Dr. Schoerning with AR, signing out.  I’ll get part 2 out for New York in the next couple of weeks.  Please like and subscribe, help get the message out there.  There is hope.  We can prepare for what’s coming.  Let’s get ready.