Study: The Northeast is warming faster than the rest of the U.S.

·Senior Climate Editor
·2 min read

The Northeastern coast of the United States, from Delaware to Maine, is warming faster than most of the Northern Hemisphere, according to research published Thursday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

In the last century, the region’s average summertime temperature has increased by 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. (Globally, average year-round temperatures have risen by 1.2 degrees Celsius.)

Climate scientists at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who conducted the study described the warming in the Northeast as “exceptional.” The reason, they say, is that ocean temperatures are rising especially fast in the North Atlantic.

A pedestrian cools off at a hydrant during a heatwave in the East Village, New York, in June.
A pedestrian cools off at a hydrant during a heatwave in the East Village, New York, in June. (Nina Westervelt/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The underlying cause is a slowdown in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, a conveyor belt-like system that keeps refreshing surface waters in the North Atlantic. The breakdown of that process allows water to become stagnant and heat more quickly in the waters off the Northeastern United States.

The slowdown also could ultimately make other places, such as Europe, colder, by depriving them of the warm tropical waters that are normally sent northward from the Caribbean.

But on the U.S. side, a regional wind pattern is also increasing the influence of warmer ocean temperatures, by sweeping the air above the North Atlantic toward the East Coast, according to the study.

The Northeast, the most densely populated region of the United States, is already seeing devastating impacts from warmer ocean temperatures, including lobster die-offs near Cape Cod, Mass., devastating flash flooding and more frequent and severe hurricanes sweeping through states like New York and New Jersey.

The author of the study, Ambarish Karmalkar, told the Guardian that extreme heat may also become a major issue soon on the East Coast. “The exceptional warming we’ve seen can have serious implications for heat stress and human health,” he said.

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