The climate is changing - but what does this mean for our forests, our waters, our daily lives? What does it mean for Vermont? For the first time ever - Climate Wizard allows the general public to see, use, and understand data in a user friendly format that was once accessed only by scientists. The tool, developed by The Nature Conservancy and partners, allows experts and non-experts alike to visualize the impacts of climate change anywhere on Earth – including Vermont.
Climate Wizard looks at how temperature and precipitation may change by month, season, or year - over the next 100 years. It also looks backward over the last 50 years. Viewers can select one of three different carbon dioxide emission scenerios and look at the projections under individual climate models, or an ensemble average of all three.
In the 50 years since the Vermont Chapter was chartered, we've seen a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Over the next 100 years, Vermont could see an additional temperature increase of 8.9 degrees Fahrenheit.
We don’t yet know exactly how this will translate on a local level. Vermont’s climate is expected to become like that of southern Virginia. The predicted warming will happen so quickly in terms of geologic time, that natural communities won’t be able to adapt quickly enough to remain intact. The combinations of species that we are used to seeing together in Vermont probably won’t occur here in 100 years.
Future hikers may no longer find the alpine plants that now thrive above treeline (about 4,000 feet) on our highest mountains. The limit of tree growth is expected to move up as the climate warms.
Climate scientists are recommending that as we work to protect lands and waters in Vermont, we incorporate adaptation strategies to help those landscapes become more resilient. On-the-ground strategies include, for example, conserving all sides of a mountain to maximize the available habitat niches, and providing large interconnected swaths of forests to help species successfully migrate and shift their ranges over time.
With data at our fingertips through the expert version of Climate Wizard, we have been focusing on Lake Champlain, the region’s largest freshwater ecosystem. We took an in-depth look at how changes in temperature and precipitation may alter the complex ecology of our great lake and its tributaries. Read the report, Climate Change in the Champlain Basin, by the Conservancy’s Vermont and Adirondacks Chapters to find out more.February 17, 2011