Albany 3.5 degrees warmer than 1970; Vermont nearly 4 degrees warmer

Taxis in Manhattan. (cla78 // Shutterstock)

Taxis in Manhattan. (cla78 // Shutterstock)

ALBANY, N.Y. (STACKER) — Just a degree or two degrees hotter doesn’t seem like a lot. You would barely notice the change on a sunny afternoon, or in the warmth of a cup of coffee. But over time, it’s enough to change our environment from top to bottom.

Every state is growing warmer, with higher temperatures fueled by everything from powerful ocean currents and giant coal-fired power plants to commuters, cows, and leaky old buildings.

Vermont is the No. 2 fastest-warming state since 1970. To find out which states have warmed the fastest since 1970, Stacker consulted Climate Central’s 2020 Earth Day report. This report looked at the Applied Climate Information System’s time-series data from major metropolitan areas in each state. Read that full story here.

New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts by the numbers:

  • Vermont’s temperature change from 1970–2019: 3.90 degrees
  • New York’s temperature change from 1970–2019: 1.98 degrees
  • Massachusetts’s temperature change from 1970-2019: 1.6 degrees
  • Fastest-warming metro areas:
    • Burlington: 3.9 degrees
    • Albany: 3.5 degrees
    • Syracuse: 2.1 degrees
    • Utica: 2.1 degrees
    • Springfield: 1.9° degrees
    • Boston: 1.3° degrees

Vermont has the highest level of greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the Northeast. Transportation use accounts for about half of those emissions. More than half of households are heated with petroleum, nearly one in seven burn wood for their heat, and many of Vermont’s old, inefficient residential and commercial buildings leak heat. In 2011, more than 2,400 roads, 800 buildings, and 300 bridges—including many historic covered bridges—were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Irene.

About a third of New York’s electricity comes from nuclear power plants, considered zero emitters. In 2018, the state produced the most hydroelectric power east of the Rocky Mountains. With almost one in three residents using public transportation to get to work (pre-pandemic), New York consumes less petroleum per capita than any other. But warming temperatures—particularly upstate in cities like Albany—threaten destructive storms and inland flooding.

Carbon emissions from cars and trucks are one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases in Massachusetts, due in part to extensive commuting in the Boston metro area and traffic congestion. With precipitation from heavy storms up 70% from the mid-20th century across the Northeast, flooding has become a threat to coastal communities and tidal wetlands where bass and clams are harvested. Warmer ocean waters mean the cod and lobster industry also will suffer.

The leading cause of temperature increases today is human-derived greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide and methane, which trap heat in our atmosphere. The more gases we emit by burning fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal, and in our farming practices, the more heat is trapped. Plants and trees mitigate the situation somewhat by absorbing carbon dioxide to produce oxygen. The ocean absorbs carbon dioxide, too, but that process makes it more acidic.

As temperatures rise, winters grow shorter. The ice on the Great Lakes forms later and disappears earlier. Colorado’s snowpack is melting as much as 30 days sooner than it was just a generation ago. With less snow in the New Mexico and Colorado mountains to feed the Rio Grande, the river is drying up.

Meanwhile, springs are wetter, with flooding more common (and more destructive), and summers are drier with longer stifling heat waves that can be debilitating—and deadly—for those who cannot afford the price of staying cool. Wildfires are whipped across mountain forests by overheated winds, and barges run aground in the low waters of the Mississippi River.

Evaporation threatens supplies of water for drinking and irrigation, while algal blooms choke inland lakes. In the heartland, crop yields are declining. Along the coasts, land is getting too salty for farming, as intruding saltwater seeps into freshwater aquifers and groundwater. Dairy and beef cattle stop eating, foliage trees grow dull, and sugar maple trees die.

Spectacular beaches are also disappearing. Rising seas threaten the existence of scenic barrier islands, and ocean levels around the world could rise more than four feet by 2100 if aggressive mitigation efforts aren’t undertaken, according to a study published on May 8, 2020, in npj Climate and Atmospheric Science.

Many states are taking action to burn less coal, use less electricity, tighten fuel standards, encourage people to drive less, create greener cities, and construct more efficient buildings to change our consumption, our behaviors, our habits, and our attitudes about warming temperatures.

Three states tied for the No. 1 position among slowest-warming states. They are Maryland, Mississippi, and South Dakota, all clocking in at 1.37 degrees hotter. Meanwhile, Nevada’s temperatures increased by a whopping 6.45 degrees, and New Mexico grew by 3.6 degrees.

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