Here’s how climate change will affect the Boston area, according to a new report



“We have already done an enormous amount of damage, and this report highlights the need to achieve net zero emissions.”

Storm clouds form over Fenway Park after the first game of a baseball doubleheader between the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles May 28 in Boston. Michael Dwyer/AP Photo

In the coming decades, the Boston area will likely experience more intense storms, warmer days and rising sea levels, according to a new report from scientists at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Specifically, by the end of the century, under the worst of circumstances, the Boston area and surrounding area could see a temperature increase of nearly 10 degrees from 2000, associated with a potential for more than 10 feet of sea ​​rise.

The report explores the impacts of climate change on 101 Boston-area municipalities and was published by the Greater Boston Research Advisory Group. Diving into a number of topics, including storms and rainfall, temperature change and sea level rise, the report echoes findings from other recent climate change reports, such as studies of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administrationaccording to boston globe.

Instead of looking at the world as a whole, however, this report focuses on what will happen to a specific region if climate change is not halted.

“To think that we have caused so much change in our climate is staggering,” said Paul Kirshen, professor of climate adaptation at UMass-Boston and author of the report. World. “We have already done an enormous amount of damage, and this report highlights the need to achieve net zero emissions.”

So what could happen to Boston if global emissions don’t drop dramatically?

If emissions remain in the highest scenario, the region’s projected number of days with temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit could reach up to 80 days per year, rising from 8 to 10 from the base years (1986 -2015). If global emissions drop significantly, the global temperature increase could be kept to just 3 degrees by 2100, and only average about 20 days above 90 degrees per year.

The United Nations estimates that global emissions are on track to increase by 14% by the end of the decade, therefore, there could be more hot days in the future for Massachusetts residents.

Such an increase in the number of hot days poses public health risks, according to the study. Boston’s heat-induced death rate is likely to increase over the next few decades – to triple by 2050. These effects will likely hit marginalized communities the hardest, including those living in urban heat islands – the report specifically focusing on East Boston, Lower Roxbury, Somerville, and Chelsea/Everett.

“Risks related to air quality and respiratory disease, adverse birth outcomes and vector-borne disease transmission are also likely to increase due to temperature changes,” the report said.

In addition to affecting the people themselves, temperature increases are impacting some of the region’s iconic industries, including cranberries and maple syrup, as well as lobster and shellfish fishing.

“Under global warming, the waters south of Cape Cod may become too warm to support a population of lobsters. Warmer waters also promote shellfish diseases, parasites and algal blooms that can damage important marine ecosystems and promote instability in coastal economic sectors,” the report states.

With temperature rise comes sea level rise as well. If emissions are drastically reduced, sea level rise could be held to just 1 foot during the 21st century, according to the report.

However, in Boston Harbor, relative sea level is likely to rise about 3.4 feet by 2100. Another factor that influences sea level is the amount of melting ice covering Antarctica and Greenland over the next few decades, which could raise sea levels by the same amount. as much as 10.5 feet.

Melting glaciers will disproportionately affect the northeast, the authors wrote.

“The melting of land ice causes changes in Earth’s gravity and rotation that impact regional patterns of sea level rise,” they wrote. “When the ice disappears from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, these processes amplify the resulting sea level rise in Boston by about 25%, relative to the global average.”

While sea level rise may not be noticeable to some on a day-to-day basis, daily flooding can have more of an impact. The report found that Boston is likely to have nuisance flooding, when the local flood threshold is exceeded for at least an hour a day, for about half of the year by 2050, compared to about 15 days per day. year now.

Floods that only occur once a decade will also become more frequent – ​​even with reduced emissions, by 2050 they are likely to occur every year.

Groundwater supplies, from which drinking water is extracted, are expected to decline by 18% due to less snowfall during winters, a longer spring and increased demand for water due to warmer temperatures. high.

“It’s absolutely concerning,” said Jayne Knott, a research associate at the UMass-Boston School for the Environment and another author of the report. World. “We depend on groundwater for our drinking water.”

River flood rates and rainfall levels are expected to increase over the coming decades. Precipitation levels are expected to increase by 10-20% by 2050 and 20-30% by 2100, and with large reductions in pollution levels, major river floods could be limited to a 15% increase .

While storms in the northeast are highly variable, the authors wrote, there are some predictions for how the storms will treat the region in coming decades. Specifically, tropical storms are likely to occur less often, but of the storms that do occur, most will be stronger. Extratropical storms, on the other hand, will decrease in overall frequency, and the less precipitation they bring will be snow.

As the planet warms, the amount of water vapor in the air increases, which will likely lead to more intense precipitation during storms.

This report is similar to a study the Greater Boston Research Advisory Group published six years ago, and while many predictions have remained the same, confidence in the projections has increased.

“We no longer consider these estimates to be conservative estimates,” said Ellen Douglas, professor of hydrology and associate dean at the UMass-Boston School for the Environment, and another author of the report. World. “That’s what we now expect to see.”


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