Study: Climate changes should benefit grapes
FINGER LAKES—While climate change has its critics, Cornell University has completed a study on changes to the weather and the affects to New York state. Those changes, according to the report, include many challenges to the Finger Lakes and a few benefits.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) funded the study done by Cornell University, Columbia University, and the City University of New York called ClimAID. It was designed to be a resource should the state begin to prepare for hotter summers, increased snow during the winter, and a range of other effects on the environment and people. The study predicts annual temperatures in New York state will rise by four to nine degrees by 2080 and precipitation will rise by five to 15 percent, with most of it in the winter. It also predicts that along the seacoast and tidal portion of the Hudson River, the sea level will rise by one to five inches by the 2020s and eight to 23 inches by the 2080s. If melting of polar ice caps is factored in, sea level is projected to rise 37 to 55 inches by the 2080s, the report says.
“The past year was a good teachable moment in terms of the types of impacts we anticipate with climate change,” said Art DeGaetano, a climate expert from Cornell who was one of the report’s authors. “What we show in the report is that winters will tend to get wetter and summers drier. Conditions this year were textbook for that. Farmers had a tough time getting into wet fields this spring, then there were droughts. The flooding from Irene and Lee brought the classic types of impacts we project to occur in the report.”
Locally, those changes are both negative and positive. According to the study, vineyards should benefit in this predicted climate. However, as a rural community there are other agricultural resources. The report also says that McIntosh and Empire apple varieties will suffer and milk production will decrease. For the central New York region, the study said high value crops would need irrigation.
Other impacts of climate change could include a decline in native brook trout and Atlantic salmon, while bass will flourish in warmer waters. Invasive insects, weeds and other pests (of which the Finger Lakes is already victim) will increase. Adirondack and Catskill spruce-fir forests should disappear. The study also said that electrical demand should increase in the warm months.
A 60-page summary of the report is available at http://nyserda.ny.gov/Publications/Research-and-Development/Environmental/EMEP-Publications/Response-to-Climate-Change-in-New-York.aspx.
The study proposes numerous steps that can be taken to adapt to the changing climate. Improving insulation and using reflective roofing materials could keep buildings cooler in summer, reducing electrical demand from air conditioning. Avoiding development in coastal zones and river flood plains could reduce the damage from flooding.
Stormwater and wastewater system upgrades should take increased precipitation and flooding into account. The study adds that elderly people and those with health conditions would be more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses such as asthma. Farm workers may be exposed to more chemicals if pesticide use is increased in response to climate change.
The report lists a number of climate changes in New York that have already been observed:
• Annual average temperatures have risen about 2.4 degrees since 1970, with winter warming exceeding 4.4 degrees.
• The sea level along New York’s coastline has risen about a foot since 1900.
• There’s been no discernible trend in annual average precipitation for the state as a whole since 1900, but intense precipitation such as heavy downpours have increased in recent decades.