New Online Tool Reveals Climate Change in One’s Own Locality

Climate change impacts the home. A warming world affects the Northeast region, and to prove that, the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions (CICSS) has developed a new online tool: Climate Change in Your County.

Making use of data from 1950 to 2013 and climate models revealing future trends, the tool provides beneficial information for educators, farmers, gardeners, and community leaders.

“The tool allows you to zoom in on your particular county in the Northeast to see how global climate change is really happening in your own backyard,” said Art DeGaetano, professor of climatology in Cornell’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and director of the Northeast Regional Climate Center (NRCC) at Cornell.

Besides DeGaetano, the tool was designed by Brian Belcher, senior developer at CICSS; Allison Chatrchyan, director of CICSS; Danielle Eiseman, postdoctoral associate, CICSS; and Mike Hoffmann, executive director of CICSS.

“We’ve talked to farmers and they’ve asked us for how the climate has changed in their specific location,” said Chatrchyan. “We know that people can relate more to climate change when the impacts are seen locally and personally.”

Consequently, DeGaetano notes, “We developed the tool to show how the climate is changing, not just for this week or this month, but how things like growing degree days and average annual temperature are changing through time.”

The new tool is accommodated in the Cornell’s Climate Smart Farming program website, which has agricultural decision support tools and resources to help farmers better handle climate change.

The application’s map of Northeast counties exposes valuable statistical data. Using data supplied by the NRCC, it monitors average annual temperatures, and low and high-temperature trends. Farmers will possibly use the tool’s growing season length statistics and yearly growing degree days. Users will also find climate projections and precipitation trends.

By clicking on New York County – home to Harlem, Manhattan, and Washington Heights – a user can see that there were 19.9 days above 90 degrees in 1970 and 36.1 days in 2010. That number is expected to increase to 70.6 in 2073.

In an agricultural region of New York State, Delaware County, the new application reveals that the duration of the growing season has extended 11 days since 1980.

There were 10.6 days above 90 degrees in 1970 for Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The tool displays there were 30.1 days above 90 degrees in 2010 and the climate models project that there will be almost 78 days in 2073 and virtually 96 days by 2099.

Across most counties in the Northeast, the yearly average temperatures will increase, but there are outliers. Hardy and Mineral counties, West Virginia, near the border with Virginia, have witnessed a cooling trend in their average annual temperatures.

In Queens County, New York, the average annual temperature in 1950 was 53.9 degrees. By the end of this century, the estimated average annual temperature in Queens will be 64 degrees. The present climate model shows an increase from 19.7 days above 90 degrees in 2018 and to about 81 days by the end of the century.

DeGaetano explained that the team tried out a number of prototypes in order to present the data clearly. “This tool shows how widespread and consistent local climate change can be,” he said. “While variables can change across the region, you still get uniform, reliable patterns of a warming climate.”

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