Since the early 20th century, the commonwealth’s average temperature has increased more than 1.8 F, with an even greater rise in winter temperatures.
The amount, timing, and intensity of precipitation has also changed.
We receive about 10 percent more precipitation annually, with the greatest increase during winter, but not as more snow but more rain.
The intensity of our rain events has also changed, with a 71 percent increase in very heavy rain events.
These changes are impacting our state parks and forests.
Infrastructure damage from flooding has increased substantially, leading to washed out roads and trails and structural damage to buildings. Loyalsock State Forest experienced two 500-year storm events in a five-year period resulting in $13 million in damages. Other impacts include wind damage and infrastructure damage and loss of recreational opportunities at Presque Isle due to historically high-water levels in Lake Erie.
The natural world is also being affected by climate change.
Our growing season is 10 days longer than it was during the mid-20th century, and while that might be good for your vegetable garden, it’s leading to an increase in frost damage to forests that bud early during later winter warm spells. Animals are responding, too. The timing of bird migrations, for example, is shifting, and in the case of red-tailed hawks, many no longer migrate because food is available year-round.
more precipitation annually since the early 20th century
increase in heavy rain events since the early 20th century
the amount of damage sustained at Loyalsock State Forest after two 500-year storm events in a five-year period