As the earth continues to warm, our climate continues to change.
What researchers are finding is that temperatures continue increasing; there are fewer rainy days, and when it does rain the storms are more intense; coastal storms are more powerful; and sea levels keep rising. In fact, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration says the eight warmest years on record have happened in the last 20 years.
Every region is being impacted, including Massachusetts.
Climate change in Massachusetts is certainly being impacted by these warming temperatures, which can negatively impact everything from human health to plant, animal, and ecosystem health.
Let’s talk about Massachusetts climate change predictions and Massachusetts climate change risks so you can get a better idea of what’s happening in your state.
The Climate Is Warming
According to Resilient Mass, Northeast annual air temperatures have been warming at an average rate of .5 degrees Fahrenheit each decade since 1970. Winter temperatures have been increasing even faster at 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit per decade.
Massachusetts climate change projections say temperatures will continue this pattern, increasing significantly over the next 100 years. By 2050, average Northeast temperatures are expected to increase between 4 degrees and 5.1 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the level of future greenhouse gas emissions. In summer, this could mean a rise in drought and wildfire risks. In winter, this could mean less snow and ice for cold season activities and a rise in various pest species.
Precipitation Is Increasing
Along with warming temperatures, climate change in Massachusetts is bringing an earlier spring with more precipitation. Along with that comes heavier rains, leading to increased flooding.
In fact, rainfall intensity has increased more in the Northeast U.S. than any other part of the country with precipitation from heavy storms increasing 70% over much of the area since 1960. This has also increased flood frequency.
Flooding can harm ecosystems, disrupt farming, and even increase human health risks.
Excess water can also cause trouble for your trees and plants that don’t love wet feet. There are some trees and shrubs that can handle excess water better, which is one of the ways you can adapt your yard to these Massachusetts climate change risks.
Shift in Tree Species Distribution
Another thing the warming temperatures from climate change do is affect plant hardiness zones and plant viability.
Most of Massachusetts, for instance, used to fall in plant hardiness zone 5A or 5 B, but in 2023 Massachusetts now falls into zones 6 and 7, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This means, some plants that fall in the 5 zones, may not make it now due to the zone change.
In the Northeast, oak and hickory are increasing due to climate change, while sugar maple, beech, and gray birch are fading. In forest areas, spruce-fir forests are expected to transition to maple-beech-birch forests or even oak-hickory forests in some areas.
Not only will preferred tree species change, but timing of tree care services will change due to the shifting seasons.
Tree Pest Pressure Increasing
Massachusetts climate change projections also show intensified weed, disease, and pest pressures are expected to result from longer seasons and warmer winters.
The warmer, wetter, and more humid climate favors pathogen growth and spread. For instance, greater severity of foliar diseases in white pines increases defoliation and leads to dieback.
When it comes to pests, climate change reduces the cold temperatures that used to limit them. This means pests can move into areas they previously didn’t exist.
For example, the southern pine beetle, which is a pest native to the southeastern U.S., has recently spread to Massachusetts. By 2080, researchers predict southern pine beetles to be located throughout the Northeast region, impacting the life of pines. Hemlock woolly adelgid is also spreading further north because cold winter temperatures no longer stop it. Brown Tree Moth has been expanding inland. Box Tree Moth, a new invasive pest of boxwood, may have more generations to come per year in warmer climates.
At Hartney Greymont, we have both ISA and Massachusetts certified arborists located in Needham, Concord, Danvers, Cape Cod, and the surrounding areas who can help you choose the best trees for climate change and address Massachusetts climate change risks.