I just got back from visiting family in New Hampshire for the holidays, narrowly missing the rush of hot air spewed by presidential candidates as they move eastward for the state’s upcoming primaries after tomorrow’s Iowa caucuses.
Or maybe they’d been visiting the state too much already.
Because when I got home, instead of our usual Christmas hockey game, we joked about taking a swim together after brunch. The water had barely iced over, and after a day of strong rain, it disappeared altogether. On a few days, it was warm enough to wear a t-shirt.
One short bout of warm weather doesn’t make the case for climate change, which in any case is supported by “overwhelming evidence,” as NH scientists explain below. But it turns out, the data shows a substantial warming trend in New Hampshire, particularly on the east coast of the state, that is changing our winters:
Detailed analysis of data collected at four meteorological stations (Durham and Concord NH; Lawrence, MA; and Portland, ME) in and around the Piscataqua/Great Bay region show that since 1970, mean annual temperatures have warmed 1.3 to 1.7 degrees F, with the greatest warming occurring in winter (2.7 to 4.2 degrees F). Average minimum and maximum temperatures have also increased over the same time period, with minimum temperatures warming faster than mean temperatures.
Across the state, sap for syrup is getting tapped earlier, ice is receding faster, snow is on the ground less frequently, and state planners are getting ready for more extreme weather events.
However, despite the body of scientific evidence in the Northeastern U.S. and all around the country, the crop of Republican presidential hopefuls touring New Hampshire have made climate denial a central piece of their political ideology.
Even when challenged by a New Hampshire Republican about the issue over the summer, Texas Governor Rick Perry (who’s state is the middle of an epic, economically disastrous drought) dug in his heels on this issue, claiming “almost weekly and daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”
Not long after making that statement, Richard Muller, a prominent climate skeptic who received funding from the Koch Brothers to study land-surface temperatures, released a study he said showed “we’re getting very steep warming” because “we are dumping enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that we’re working in a dangerous realm, I realm where I think, we may really have trouble in the next coming decades.”
Further isolating the bizarre views on climate from Republican presidential candidates, a group of 50 New Hampshire scientists just sent an open, non-partisan letter to “all candidates,” including presidential hopefuls, encouraging them “to acknowledge the overwhelming balance of evidence for the underlying causes of climate change”:
New Hampshire’s climate has experienced substantial changes over the past half century. Over this period, the northeastern United States has experienced a region-wide winter warming trend of almost 4 degrees F. The number of days with snow on the ground has decreased an average of one week. Pond hockey and ice fishing have taken a hit as ice breaks up on our lakes more than a week earlier than it used to. Peak snowmelt runoff in the spring now occurs 7–10 days earlier in northern New England rivers. Increasing extreme rainfall events and flooding, rising seas, and an influx of pests (Lyme-disease-bearing ticks at the top of the list) have emerged as the latest and potentially most serious challenges to our health and our quality of life.
A similar letter written by 31 scientists in Iowa was sent to candidates in November.
When presidential hopefuls stop campaigning in Iowa and move over to New Hampshire in the coming days, they’ll be greeted by a cold snap that will hit the Northeast this week. If the candidates start cracking jokes about Al Gore and global cooling, I’m sure plenty of families would be happy to offer them a swim to clear their heads.