In Maine, we’re used to ever-changing weather conditions, but for the youngest Mainers alive today, the state’s climate won’t feel like home within the next 60 years.
That’s the finding of a new study published this week in the journal Nature Communications, which maps how the climates will shift in 540 major cities if carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise at their present clip. For some 250 million Americans, including many here in Maine, it could feel much warmer by 2080.
In 2080, Bangor’s climate could feel more like Rahway, New Jersey, which is near Staten Island, New York. The typical summer in Rahway is 7.1 degrees Fahrenheit warmer and nearly 28 percent wetter than in the Queen City.
In Portland, the climate could more closely resemble Baltimore, where summers are 9.4 degrees warmer and 20 percent wetter than in Maine’s largest city.
Elsewhere, the study found Lewiston’s climate in 2080 could feel more like Towson, Maryland, which is just to the north of Baltimore. Under that scenario, Lewiston’s summers would be 8.4 degrees warmer and 18.5 percent wetter than today. For Brunswick, summers could come to resemble Chester, Pennsylvania, to the south of Philadelphia, where it’s typically 8.2 degrees warmer and 22 percent wetter.
You can explore an interactive map showing the climate shift for 540 U.S. cities here.
The researchers found the 540 cities on average move 528 miles to the south climate-wise, if carbon emissions stay on track to increase the average global temperature by 5.4 degrees. Even if the world cuts back on emissions, and keeps the average global temperature increase below 3.6 degrees — the target set under the Paris climate agreement, from which President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. in 2017 — the climates in these cities still shift, but on average only 319 miles to the south.
Under that scenario, Bangor summers could resemble New Britain, Connecticut, where they are typically 4.6 degrees warmer and 16 percent wetter. Portland’s summers would look more like East Orange, New Jersey, which is 5 degrees warmer and 28 percent wetter. Lewiston’s summers would feel more like Spring Valley, New York, where it is usually 4 degrees warmer and 24 percent wetter. And for Brunswick, summers would feel like Darien, Connecticut, where they are 4 degrees warmer and 16 percent wetter.
It won’t take until 2080 for the effects of climate change to show; already, Maine has seen the signs of a changing climate, and those changes could mean severe economic impacts.
The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s bodies of saltwater, and 2018 was the gulf’s third warmest year on record. That warming trend has far-reaching consequences for Maine men and women who make their livelihoods on the water. It could mean smaller catches as Maine’s iconic lobsters move into deeper and colder waters. A recent study by the University of Maine Darling Marine Center and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences found that baby lobsters may not be able to survive if temperatures in the gulf rise by an expected 5 degrees. The warming ocean also is degrading habitats for valuable shellfish species.
For Maine farmers, the changing climate has lengthened the growing season, but also brought challenges with more frequent droughts.
Scientists have also pointed to a changing climate as a driving factor in the spike in lyme disease cases, which more than tripled between 2004 and 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.