Nice turnout of 33 folks at yesterday’s climate change talk, given by Roger Hill. Roger has been a meteorologist in Vermont since 1987, working mostly as a private forecaster and more recently, much in demand as a speaker on climate change.
Having lived in various places, Roger says that with the varying seasons and changing climate of Vermont, we ‘live the weather’ here. A murmur of agreement was heard from audience. Largely spared from the most dire consequences, Vermonters are nonetheless affected by worldwide patterns; for example, melting arctic ice has contributed to wetter winters; less ice cover in the Great Lakes adds more cloudy days to Vermont via prevailing westerly winds.
Roger began by stating the problem, saying February 2020 is the 421st consecutive month with global above average temperatures. He added we’re presently at 414 ppm carbon dioxide (co2), and if you consider methane and aggregates, we are nearing 500 ppm. Regardless, levels are the highest they’ve been in three million years.
Roger explained that co2 works like a thermostat. Sunlight causes the molecules of co2 to ‘dance’ which creates more heat, causing temperatures to rise. He said as the earth’s atmosphere heats up, it holds more water vapor. Thus when it rains, it rains harder; when it snows, it snows harder. Dry areas such as deserts get drier and wet areas are more prone to serious flooding.
He added that surprisingly, earth would be in a cooling phase right now if it weren’t for human impact. He showed pictures of tar sands and off shore drilling, saying what we know intuitively; we need to stop it at the source! Ironically since 2011, carbon emissions from energy use have been rising at the fastest rate ever, with humans stuck in an ‘anti-change bias’.
Roger stated emphatically that it’s the speed of climate change that’s a major concern; earth’s inhabitants simply can’t adapt quickly enough. Patterns are hard to decipher, he said; climate change is not linear and is more like a staircase. The overall picture is clear; the last five years were the hottest on record, globally.
As far as as solutions go, Roger talked about the oceans (which take in a whopping 94% of earth’s heat) Adding quantities of iron to the water would stimulate more phytoplankton which sequester carbon. Or pulling co2 from the atmosphere, and burying it until it becomes solid and can be used as cement, for example. Frankly, these sounded like pie-in-the-sky solutions; Roger himself promotes electric vehicles, having just purchased his own electric hyundai kona a few days ago!
Asked about his predictions, Roger said Vermont is in a ‘sweet spot’. Through at least 2040, we shouldn’t have too many extremes: expect continued changes in first and last freeze dates, increases in snowfall. He added we should be ready for unexpected variables.
Globally, Roger predicted Greenland could become the next polar vortex once the Arctic completely melts and said places like Australia and California are currently ‘canaries in the mine’ for abrupt climate change.
Dave and Laura, here:
On Monday January 27, Transition Town Jericho welcomed Nancy Patch, Franklin-Grand Isle County Forester, who presented "Creating and Maintaining Resilient Forests in Vermont: Adapting Forests to Climate Change". Nancy shared her vast knowledge of forests, exhibiting a keen passion for her work.
Some of the facts she shared:
• We live in the most intact broadleaf forest in the world, extending from Vermont, New York, Canada, and Maine into New Brunswick and Nova Scotia- overall, a globally significant forest.
• Climate data shows a warming trend, and fluctuations are very large; generally, more warming in the winter than in the summer here in Vermont.
• The growing season is increasing, while freezes are shorter. Flowering trees, such as apple, are flowering before the last frost. The frosts are killing the flowers, thus inhibiting healthy fruit harvests.
• Growing zones have changed from zone 3 to zone 4 in northern Vermont
• More frequent, heavier rainfall (increasing 67% compared to the rest of the country) having added impact due to Vermont’s steep slopes and narrow valleys.
• 15-20% increase in rainfall overall (as illustrated in a study Nancy cited, from 1958 to 2007).
Changes we can expect in the short term here in Vermont:
• Longer growing seasons
• Shorter winters
• More summer heat producing potential droughts
• Extreme weather events such as heavy single rain events that cause flash flooding
• Windstorms that are more frequent, sometimes leading to saturated soils will not hold the trees in place.
• Ice Storms – also more frequent and causing more damage.
What we can do to help forests:
• Leave larger trees in place, as they are wind-firm. Big trees sequester and store more carbon than smaller trees, and are better seed producers.
• Stagger tree heights at the edges of fields.
• Encourage age and diversity in the forest so that no single pest or disease can adversely affect the whole forest, ideally mixed sizes and ages with 10-12 species.
• Allow trees to die and be left standing, as that allows the forest floor to supply nutrients to the next generation.
During the Q & A, there was some discussion of deer, how they feed on new growth and thus pose a serious threat to regenerating forests. On the other hand, Nancy called blue jays “climate change heroes“ since their habit of burying acorns is so good for the forest.