Monday, December 9, 2013
Ross Nason and Jennifer Kierstead
FIVE-HUNDRED-YEAR FLOODS in Colorado, record cold temperatures in Florida, a heat wave in Alaska, sustained drought in Oklahoma and double the normal precipitation for September in Maine. Are these weather extremes related and what does this mean for us here in central Maine?
After all, gardeners are enjoying a longer growing season, fresh water is abundant, and blue skies with temperatures in the 70s in early October are nothing to complain about in Maine.
On Nov. 2, experts from Maine's world-renowned Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine will tell us what's cooking in Maine's climate -- from a global, state and mid-Maine perspective.
Climate Adaptation Facts, a briefing for Kennebec River valley communities will be held from 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield.
By definition, the difference between climate and weather is a measure of time. Weather is what the conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, from minutes to weeks. Climate is how the atmosphere behaves over relatively long periods of time. Climate is average weather, and climate change, therefore, refers to changing weather patterns.
An easy way to remember this: Climate is what you expect, but weather is what you get. And, changes in climate can be measured.
Last month, the fifth report from the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change was released. The report reflects evidence of climate change based on studies conducted by more than 800 scientists from around the world. They conclude: "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia."
Among many striking findings: Concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, which warm the earth's atmosphere and oceans, now "substantially exceed" the highest concentrations recorded in ice cores during the past 800,000 years. The rates of increase in these gases during the past 100 years are "unprecedented in the last 20,000 years."
But what do these facts mean for Mainers?
Explorer and scientist Paul Mayewski, director of the Climate Change Institute, will open the session on Nov. 2. He has traveled around the world for most of his life to extract and study ice cores in some of the most remote and inaccessible places on the planet. His talk will be followed by an overview on Maine's climate by state climatologist George Jacobson.
Wrapping up the morning, Sean Birkel, another scientist at the institute, will demonstrate his "Climate Reanalyzer" software, which provides easy online access to an array of climate models and to historical global weather data spanning more than 100 years.
Understanding how Maine's climate has changed since the 1800s will be a key focus.
Norm Anderson, an environmental health specialist, will moderate an afternoon discussion called "Building Community Resilience," which will address the impact of climate changes here in mid-Maine. Panelists will be Dana Doran, KVCC, energy; Paula Thomson, state public health; Amanda Beal, The Maine Food Strategy, agriculture; and Tim Downing, Duratherm Window Corp., business and economy.
Unity College President Stephen Mulkey will provide his perspective in closing remarks.
This event is the first of several to be held over the next year, organized by citizen volunteers with the Mid-Maine Climate Adaptation Working Group, which is a collaborative effort between the Sustain Mid-Maine Coalition based in Waterville and the Running Start Institute based in Bath.
These events will lead up to a large, regional community catalyst in early 2015, in which 50-100 stakeholders representing communities in the Kennebec River watershed will be invited to create a plan for adapting to climate change in mid-Maine.
Climate change is upon us and will continue for centuries. Regardless of whether we like it, everyone is, and increasingly will be, affected.
Independent and practical Mainers of the Kennebec River valley have chosen to come together and take action. The meeting on Nov. 2 is the first positive step in that direction.
Who should attend? Everyone who is curious and wants to make a difference -- farmers, mothers and fathers, grandparents, students, businesspeople, government leaders and elected officials, professors, people of all incomes, abilities and occupations.
To register, go to www.climatefacts4me.eventbrite.com or contact Linda Woods at 680-4208 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ross Nason is an environmental planner with Kennebec Valley Council of Governments. Jennifer Kierstead is a local businesswoman and two-time winner of a Small Business Innovation Research award. Both are members of the Mid-Maine Climate Adaptation Working Group.