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From Polar Vortex to Near 60 Degrees – What's Up with MA Climate?

PHOTO: Despite the cold snap, an expert says global warming is real. Photo credit: M. Kuhlman
PHOTO: Despite the cold snap, an expert says global warming is real. Photo credit: M. Kuhlman
January 13, 2014

NEWBURYPORT, Mass. - From last week's polar vortex to this week's unseasonably mild temperatures, some New England residents may have decided global warming must not be "real" - but the experts say that isn't the case. According to Mike Morris, steering committee chair for the group Storm Surge in Newburyport, extreme ups and downs in temperature are just part of what's predicted to result from climate change. He said other, more pointed, indicators are what's happening to sea level markers all along New England and the East Coast.

"We have sea level rise actually at a rate that's higher when compared to what's going on globally," he stated. "Storm activities, you know, also got more and more intense ... we're getting these 'hundred-year storms' every five years now."

Climate scientists also report that each of the past three decades has been hotter than the one before, and those three decades were hotter than at any time in the previous 1400 years.

Lonnie Thompson, Distinguished Professor, School of Earth Sciences, Ohio State University, who has studied the effects of climate on glaciers around the globe, noted that public opinion on climate change tends to shift in response to cold weather patterns.

"We have a tendency to say, 'Well, if it's cold here, the world must be getting colder.' Well, this is not true," he said. "We live on a huge planet. It's a complex system, and that natural variability that's always been with us continues, even though the longer-term trend is toward warming."

Mike Morris said anyone who has gone fishing along the New England coast has also likely seen other effects of climate change, including fish species that are out of place.

This means "invasive species from places further south, and we see this a lot, in terms of the fish that show up here in summer," he said. "We see stuff that we'd never see North of Cape Cod, now ... all of a sudden in the Gulf of Maine."

Morris warned that local people also should be prepared for extreme snow events, which could also happen this winter, because of climate change.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA