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Extreme Makeover – Maine Weather Edition

PHOTO: Scientists say Maine is increasingly vulnerable to the threat of extreme weather. Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard
PHOTO: Scientists say Maine is increasingly vulnerable to the threat of extreme weather. Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard
June 6, 2013

PORTLAND, Maine - Extreme weather events such as Hurricane Irene and "Superstorm Sandy" have been linked to a rise in the Earth's temperature, which allows the atmosphere to hold more moisture and dump it ferociously. Couple that with rising sea levels - also linked to global warming - and Maine's coastline faces trouble, according to experts.

Climatologist Julliette Rooney-Varga said the Northeast already has seen roughly a foot of sea-level rise, which is more than the global average of about eight inches.

"Unfortunately, we expect to see quite a bit more than global average sea-level rise," she said. "In Maine, we're talking about coastal environments, for example, that are important to tourism - like beaches and coastal cities and towns like Portland."

Although a few still disagree, most scientists blame the changing climate on the tons of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.

Dr. Michael Mann is the author of the book, "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars." He acknowledged there are "wild cards" and small uncertainties about the links between extreme weather and global warming.

"However," he said, "it would be extremely surprising if climate change was not changing the nature of these events and the evidence seems to be that it is, and in an unfavorable way, in a way that means we'll have more events like Irene and Sandy and Katrina in the future."

Mann also predicted that the storms will produce more rainfall, because a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture.

In addition to trying to reduce carbon emissions to help slow global warming, Mann suggested actions could taken along Maine's iconic coastline.

"We're going to have to take measures, adaptive measures, to protect our coastlines: building coastal defenses, moving away from the coastline, retreating away from the rising sea in certain areas," he said.

Inland, Rooney-Varga warned, increased rainfall from extreme storms could threaten the state's aging infrastructure - bridges, roads and buildings - near Maine's rivers and streams.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME