Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut 2050 Forecast

This is Dr. Emily Schoerning with AR, and I’d like to say hello to all of our friends in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island!  This state-level forecast builds on what I shared in my 2050 forecast for the Northeastern region.  I worked this detailed forecast up for your states separate from northern New England, because you have such different needs.  Your states are very coastal, in some ways more vulnerably coastal, and check out this population density map (676).  You can see that with your density of population, your level of urbanization, the types of problems you’ll have and the types of solutions you’ll need, we need to have a different mindset going in to your forecast.

I’m going to talk about some changes on the land in your area first, and then we’re going to look at the changes to the sea, which are going to have much bigger impacts on your dense coastal cities than we saw in the Northern New England forecast.  We’re going to learn how to use some cool state specific tools so you can get data for right where you are. 

On land, you’re looking at big changes in seasonality, bigger than projected for northern New England.  On top of that, there are huge difference in the high and reduced emissions scenarios modeled in the federal report.  The first fall freeze could be 1 week later under a reduced emissions scenario, vs 3 weeks later high emissions.  The last spring freeze?  We’re looking at 2 weeks earlier with reduced emissions, vs 3 weeks earlier if we stay on our current emissions pathway.  If we want to minimize the change we’re looking at, reducing emissions is critical.  We’ve got a baseline of about three additional frost free weeks, it’s unlikely we’ll see a change smaller than that in this area by 2050.  But if we don’t reduce emissions, we’re talking six total additional frost-free weeks a year.  That’s a really big change.

Whether we’re talking about reducing emissions or things staying as they are, these changes are going to lead to shorter winters, less snow, in some parts of this tri-state area basically no snow, and that winter precipitation is going to fall as rain. 

In terms of seasonality, the single biggest difference between the models is how soon the fall comes in.  The higher emissions scenario, you’re getting a lot of the increased heat coming in the form of hotter summers.  So first we get the milder winter, the earlier spring, and then under more extreme scenarios we also get intensification of the hotter, longer, summer. 

You’re already seeing longer hotter summers in this region, and it’s worth considering the burden this can place on your healthcare system.  It’s 2021, we’re all thinking more about those issues now.  Many of us know someone who has been unable to get normal medical treatment due to our overburdened healthcare system.  Especially in a dense urban area, we want to consider these health factors as we look towards 2050.  We’ve got some great projections from Rhode Island to help us visualize the potential burden on the healthcare system from these longer summers, look at page 699.  Here again, we can see the impact of emissions on our 2050 future.  Not that these emissions are going to make people directly sick, that’s not the takeaway, but that if we can minimize the changes to our climate, we can minimize the stress on a lot of systems, human-level systems.  With reduced emissions, and the 4.5 scenario is still a future that is within our grasp, there’s a lot of quality of life we can maintain related to human health, a lot more thriving we can do, into 2050 and beyond.

But let’s get moving, let’s refocus, take a look at the coast.  You can see on this map (676) that this region is on the Northeast Continental Shelf, on this broad bit of shallower ocean.  So we’re looking at different ocean geography than Northern New England.  And I want to show you a figure about the historical temperature of the waters here, on page 684.  You can see that your waters here on the shelf are warming faster than the global average.  So in your three states, we really need to drill down into specific data to get you the best idea of how warming and rising seas will impact your home.

Now we’re going to look state by state at some current tools.  And I want to take a second and quote from the literature here:

“There has been little attention devoted to evaluating and communicating the suitability and robustness of the many tools that are now available.”

Huh.  I wonder why?  Why are people making these and making so little effort to communicate them?  It confuses me.  But let’s get to it, let’s check out one of these tools. This is STORMTOOLS for Rhode Island.


Look at Narragansett, Providence

And I want to also show you these special tools for Massachusetts, which aren’t as pretty, but if you read all the text so you can stumble through it, I gotta admit, the info is good. 


Look at Boston

Connecticut, I’m sorry, I don’t think your state has made anything fancy for you, so for you we’re looking at the NOAA tool.  Let’s check out your sea level rise, and get you an overview about how to get in here.  This tool is nice, this is user friendly if you’re in Massachusetts and you’re tired of wrestling with that last tool.


Look at Bridgeport

I wonder, how many of you watching this, did you know about these tools?  Let me know, I don’t want to be here sharing stuff that’s old news to you.

Let’s wrap this up.  Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, you all are in a region that is very sensitive to changes to emissions.  The more we can bring emissions down, the better the outlook you are going to have.  The range of possible futures is pretty dramatic for this region.  Even under a lower emissions scenario, you’re going to have changes in seasonality, much less to no snow by 2050.  But the more we can keep down those emissions, the more we can avoid huge increases to your summer heat.  And as we saw in the coastal tools, your cities are facing very serious threats from sea level rise, and of course that means an increase in problems from storm surge and tidal flooding.  There’s a lot of work to be done to adapt your cities to the changes that are coming, but that work is already underway, and I hope this forecast helped bring tools into your hands so that you can see what you are facing on a very local level, so that you can think about how you are going to be part of this response.  These changes are rough, but change brings opportunities.  The work that these coastal cities are going to be doing will bring many opportunities for people who can get on top of this information, and be a part of the solution.

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.