Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire 2050 Forecast Script

This is Dr. Emily Schoerning with AR, and I’d like to say hello to all my friends in northern New England!  This state-level forecast builds on what I shared in my 2050 forecast for the Northeastern region.  In response to that video I had a lot of requests for a deeper dive into what we’re looking at for Maine and Vermont, and I figured it’s easier to throw New Hampshire into the mix than to leave it out.  For this video I’m going to try and use my new approach where we look at some tools together.  The forecast for this part of the country is not entirely pleasant, and I’d be more concerned about the outlook if it weren’t for the fact that so many of you folks appear to be both as tough as nails and way ahead of the curve on getting ready for the changes that are coming.

With that in mind, here’s what we’re going to talk about.  Changes to the land, including growing season, to trees, including sugar maples, and to animals.  Then we’ll talk about changes to the sea.  I’m going to look at sea level rise projections off your coast, and share some information about the outlook for some crucial fisheries.

So let’s start with the land.  The biggest, most crucial change you’re look at is changes to your growing season.  You’re looking at earlier spring thaws and later autumn frosts.  By 2050, for most of northern New England you’re looking at about 2 weeks increase in your growing season.  The prediction is that the changes will start with earlier springs, and then we’ll start to extend the growing season in the fall.

Now, I want to share some information about precipitation.  In these three states, you’re looking at some reduction in snow by 2050, probably up to a quarter fewer days with snow cover in New Hampshire and Vermont, little less than that in Maine.  Your total precipitation is likely to increase over the course of the year by 15-20%.  So overall, a warmer, wetter environment.  It is worth noting that more hail is forecast for this region, and larger hail.  This is worth taking into consideration when you’re thinking about when to take down hoop houses, what kinds of building materials you want to use for your home and property.

All of these changes, you can imagine this is going to put stress on some important species for the region.  One way to look at the health of a habitat is to think about some of the keystone species, those iconic species.  We’re going to do that by looking at moose, and at sugar maples.

Now to talk about moose, I need to do something I hate, which is talk about ticks.  As it gets warmer, the tick habitat is expanding north, which means more of a risk of tick-borne diseases for us.  I hate ticks, I feel itchy talking about them, and that Lyme’s disease is no joke, it can damage your brain.  And another thing that hates ticks are moose.  Moose are already being impacted by these increasing tick populations in Vermont and New Hampshire.  The game departments think that there will need to be a reduction in the number of moose Vermont and New Hampshire can support, both to control the level of ticks in the environment and because all the changes are just too much of a stress on the moose.  There will still be moose in those states, but you should expect fewer of them, and you can think about how that will change the landscape and habitats.  In Maine, no changes to the moose population seem likely or necessary at this time. 

Talking about sugar maples, we’re talking about a beautiful tree, and an economically and culturally important tree.  And to talk about what’s projected to happen for them, we’re going to use the government’s tree atlas, which is a wonderful tool I recommend you check out for yourself.  Let’s walk through it.

So that’s our look at terrestrial changes in this region.  Let’s talk a little about the changes in the sea.  First, we’re going to check out another tool, look at sea level rise along your coast.  It’s not so bad, much less direct impact than you might have noticed in my Texas forecast. 

One problem that is looking more challenging for northern New England is ocean acidification.  A lot of the local ocean acidification in the gulf of Maine in particular is driven by freshwater coming off the land.  And that water is sometimes making the water in the oyster beds so acidic that the oyster larvae die during these runoff events.

The good news is that there’s already pH monitoring and correction mechanisms being put in place in some of the oyster beds.  But if you want to have a good outlook for your tidewater species, there’s an increasingly serious need to handle runoff from up near the source.  And you need to remember, there’s a forecast for increased precipitation.  So there will be a tendency to have more runoff.  Controlling water in farmland and in towns and cities, working help it get into the ground so it can filter through instead of going right into the rivers, is a big project.  But it’s a project people can handle if they work together.

As the ocean warms off the coast, as the Gulf of Maine gets warmer, there are changes occurring in commercially important fish populations.  The outlook is not looking great for the gulf of maine cod, that catch has been doing poorly and it isn’t recovering well under the warmer conditions.  However, black sea bass, the size of that catch has been increasing, and it looks like that might remain a solid fishery.  Lobsters, if the runoff acidity can be kept under control, lobsters are looking like they could be just fine, pretty stable fishery.  There is another lobster-related concern in that there are more of those toxic algal blooms happening, and more in the forecast, but we know that what we do on land, particularly in land agriculture, has a clear relationship with those algal blooms.  There is tremendous potential to maintain a stable and productive fishery in the Gulf of Maine.  It’ll take coordinated efforts, but that kind of coordinated effort is exactly what has gotten us this far, what has created the current stable, productive, sustainable fisheries off this coast.  

Wrapping it all up, there’s a lot of work to be done to keep these states strong.  Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, there are real challenges ahead.  But the people of these states, you’ve got what it takes.  Think about how you’re going to use that longer growing season, take increased hail into account, and stay tough. 

This is Dr. Schoerning with AR, signing out.  Please like and subscribe, help get the message out there.  There is hope.  We can prepare for what’s coming.  Let’s get ready.