New Jersey 2050 Forecast Script

This is Dr. Emily Schoerning with AR, and I’d like to say hello to all our friends in New Jersey.  Thanks for joining us as we keep working our way down the coastline.  As we’ve been seeing, the states of the east coast are all facing very different challenges.  And New Jersey, for you this is again a distinct outlook.

First, let’s talk about changes in the seasons.  Your frost free season is going to increase in a pretty even way across the state.  You’re looking at spring thaw about two, two and a half weeks earlier, fall frost two to two and a half weeks later.  So, around a full month longer growing season.  Now, from a gardener’s perspective here in the Garden state, it’s interesting to note that you have very little change projected in your hardiness zone.  HARDI MAP  That’s very different from what we saw in the New York Forecast.  You can see you are currently mostly in zone 7, and you’re going to continue mostly in zone 7.  Large parts of the state, the hardiness zone won’t change at all, although of course it’s worth remembering that the winters will be shorter.  And you can see here across the river from Philadelphia the winters will also be notably milder, as this area, and the area here by New York City, shifts towards zone 8.

So, that’s a good part of this forecast, the relative stability in the winter.  Now we’re going to look over at the HEAT MAP, check out your projected summer changes.  So this map, it shows us how many days a year tend to be over 86F, which is about the point where a lot of folks want to turn the air conditioning on.  And you can see that in the historical data here, from the 80s to the late oughts, there was a real difference in the summers in the southern half and the northern half of the state.  Much shorter, cooler summer in the northern half, and here by Atlantic City, with a little over a month over 86, and in this inland part of the state by Philadelphia, it was just under 2 months over 86.  And if we look forward to 2050, we can see that unfortunately we are looking a much longer hot period.  For much of the state, it’s going to be about three months over 86, and for this area near Philadelphia it’s quite long, it’s close to four months of very warm summer.

This is one of the more dramatic summer heat increases we’ve seen in a state-level forecast.  And before you get too concerned about it, I want to show you where down the coast we see those types of summers today.  And that is in the Carolinas; coastal North Carolina, or here in this cooler pocket by Charleston, South Carolina.  So it’s a big change we’re looking at in New Jersey, but it’s nice to ground those types of big changes in reality, make sure they don’t get bigger in your head than they really are.  It’ll be a lot warmer than it is today, but people have lived in the Carolinas for a long time, that’s not some monstrous, alien environment. 

Now, as we’re getting into this headspace where we’re looking at things that are pretty big, that are pretty concerning, and trying to stay rational about them, I do think we need to take a look at the sea level rise.  We’re trying to build a picture of what the future is going to look like in New Jersey, and I want to show you, we are looking at a substantially different coastline.

So we’re going to model two feet of sea level rise, which is not an out there number for 2050, we’re expecting a foot or two.  And you’re going to see a lot of areas that currently provide a buffer for storm surge, and serve as wildlife habitat, these areas are looking at inundation.  Like over here, this agricultural area looks just like my kinda place, and you can see it will be gone.  You look at this map, you can’t believe that highway will still be there. 

There is less of this inundation in our urban areas, fortunately, but it’ll hurt the urban areas to lose these water buffers. Storms will bring the water quite far inland, there will be impacts.  And you can see that here, how far up the rivers this sea level rise will impact the landscape.  I want to take a second to look at Atlantic City, which does see direct inundation, and here I think it’s worth modeling past 2 feet.  Many places, I model 2 feet, and I feel comfortable leaving it there because the next foot doesn’t make a huge difference, but in New Jersey you should really see it. 

You can see, for the whole state, that third foot of sea level rise, once we hit a meter, dramatic changes.  That’s an upsetting map, there, but it does show you where you should and shouldn’t make your stand.  Your more resilient places, in New Jersey I’d look to dig in in areas that are safe from three feet of sea level rise, give yourself an additional buffer zone. 

And that leads me to something very serious, which is a big problem for many coastal areas in this state.  And that is saltwater incursion.  And it’s already happening, you have probably heard about how the pine barrens, the trees are dying from the saltwater incursion.  The saltwater, it can get into the ground and impact the groundwater, impact the soil quality.  And when we model three feet of rise, we’re getting kind of an indirect look at what land is going to be very vulnerable to that saltwater incursion by 2050.  If you get back past that 3 foot coastline, I’m not saying saltwater incursion isn’t going to be a problem, but you’re getting yourself out of the zone where you should expect it’ll definitely be a big problem.

So, let’s circle back, pull some threads together.  You’re looking at shorter winters, but they’re not going to be hugely milder, just a little milder.  The summers are going to be substantially longer and substantially hotter.  And you’re losing a lot of coastline, with accompanying concerns about water quality and habitat loss.  All that means, there’s going to be some landscape transformation here, particularly along the coast.

I think it’s important to get an idea of what the landscape is transforming into.  That can help with the emotional elements of all of this, because any rational person looks at a forecast like this, there’s going to be some emotional discomfort, right?  Look down at the coast of the Carolinas, and take a look at their saltwater marshes.  That’s what the current New Jersey coastal landscape is going to be shifting towards.  And in the Carolinas they’re going to be undergoing big changes, too, they’re going to be shifting more towards mangrove swamp, away from salt marsh. 

If you want to feel what your future might feel like, if you’re in coastal New Jersey, you should go down there and check out the salt marsh ecosystem.  My understanding is that it’s got very good recreational use.  And there are sea turtles that nest there now, in the Carolinas.  The sea turtles are moving up the coast as it gets warmer.  You get ready for them, odds are good the sea turtles are going to come to you.

Just to wrap it all up, the heart of all this for New Jersey, is that if you want to build resilience, you need to get yourself into a mindset where you’re able to accept change.  Accept it, really envision it.  Because the next twenty years are going to be intense, you’re going to become the edge of the new South.  The new place that feels like the American South feels now.  Southern Virginia was the old transition point, now it’s going to be Southern New Jersey. Look at that new coastline, make sure you’re back far enough from the sea, and start thinking about what opportunities this change presents.  Every big change like this, there are going to be winners, and losers.  You start thinking about this early, so you can be a winner.

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.