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Global Warming: Hot Times Predicted for New York

by: Jorge Fitz-Gibbon    5 December 2006

Global warming is having a significant impact on the Hudson Valley and could prompt even more dramatic changes if greenhouse gas emissions go unchecked, a broad-ranging group of environmentalists and scientists warned yesterday.

In fact, summers in upstate New York could resemble those in present-day Georgia or South Carolina by the end of the century, and the frequency of 100-degree days in a chilly city like Buffalo could increase from once every two years to 14 days a year.

Speaking at a state-sponsored regional conference on climate change, more than a dozen experts said natural warming trends have been accelerated by increased gas emissions, growing population and excessive land use, setting the stage for higher temperatures, more droughts and more severe storms.

Only through legislation and an emphasis on alternative energies can the changes be tempered, the experts told a gathering of nearly 400 policymakers and environmentalists.

"It's not something that there is a magic bullet for," said Cameron Wake, a glaciologist at the University of New Hampshire. "The more that we can get together, the better off we will be. This isn't a problem that scientists are going to fix."

The conference, Climate Change in New York's Hudson Valley, was sponsored by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in association with numerous environmental groups, local government agencies and local universities. The goal, organizers said, is to educate the public about global and regional warming trends and to prompt the government to adopt more sound policies to curb the release of greenhouse gases - measures that include a Westchester County task force and the promotion of solar energy by Greenburgh officials.

Scientists believe that gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane are helping to trap the sun's heat in the earth's atmosphere, causing temperatures to rise over time. The trend could mean average temperatures 12.5 degrees higher by the end of the century and a significant reduction in the amount of snowfall in winter.

In the Northeast, the climate may be changing even more rapidly, particularly in winter. Compared to 1970, there are now 15 to 30 fewer days of snow on the ground in the Northeast, one study found. Some regional models also show an increase in average temperatures of 1.4 degrees over 102 years, but a spike of 2 to 4 degrees over the past 30 years.

"Climate has always been changing, so we can't talk about climate change as something new," said Art DeGaetano, director of the Northeast Climate Data Center at Cornell University. "Clearly, the temperatures we're seeing today ... are much warmer than we've seen for the last 1,000 years. Clearly, there's warming almost everywhere.

"Climate change is upon us," he said. "Climate is going to warm, so we do have to act and we do have to prepare."

Fast facts

Among the statistics cited at the DEC regional conference on climate change:

- Droughts lasting one to three months, which now occur every two to three years, could happen yearly by the end of the century.

- The average temperature in the Northeast could rise by 12.5 degrees by 2100 under current standards. It would be up to 6.5 degrees if measures were taken to curb greenhouse gases.

- The rise in the sea level could be up to 33 inches by the end of the century under current standards, or up to 21 inches if gases are curbed.

- New York City could see 25 days a year over 100 degrees, compared to the current average of two days per year.

- The melting of ice in Greenland and changes in the Gulf Stream are happening at an unexpectedly fast rate.