New England’s climate is changing, and the best available scientific information indicates that climate change impacts such as sea level rise, temperature increases, and more frequent severe storm events are likely to continue increasing throughout the next century. New Hampshire’s coastal climate, specifically, is expected to continue warming as a result of increasing carbon emissions from human activities. With warming comes increased precipitation and frequency of precipitation events, rapid and increasing snowmelt, coastal flooding, and relative sea level rise (Wake et al., 2011).
These major changes to climate and weather events will substantially affect water quality, wildlife habitat, and human communities in unprecedented ways. Climate change impacts are likely to contribute additional stress to coastal habitats that scientists are working to conserve and restore. For instance, increased frequency and intensity of precipitation events will in turn transport additional non-point source pollution to our waterways negatively affecting water quality, eelgrass beds, and oyster reef. Communities have an opportunity to begin—or continue—planning for these predicted changes through local zoning laws or other town legislation (Wake et al., 2011).
Some communities in the Piscataqua Region watershed are taking steps to build more resilient communities and are planning ahead. Action include writing and adopting climate change chapters in the town Master Plan and engaging town or city residents in a dialogue about climate change adaptation, among others. Below are a few quotes from community leaders who spoke to the specific actions their town is taking to address climate change.
“While the debate continues as to what is causing the rise in temperature, evidence has shown that the current climate system shift is due at least in part to human activities. As a result of this Climate Change, coastal New Hampshire over the next 50 – 100 years is likely to experience an increase in temperature, increase in overall precipitation, an increase in extreme precipitation events, and sea level rise. As a coastal NH community, Durham needs to be prepared”
–Todd Selig, Town of Durham Administrator
“In order to build upon the positive energy created by the NE Climate Adaptation project, [Dover has] been working with the UNH Cooperative Extension and NH Sea Grant to hold three workshops to examine how Dover can prepare for climate change. So far there has been a great amount of public participation that has resulted in productive brainstorming sessions to prioritize positive actions that can be undertaken”
–Steve Bird, Dover City Planner
“Rye is a coastal town surrounded by marshes and it is not an option to ignore climate change and sea level rise and the timing was right to address these concerns. Rye recently completed a grant geared towards educating the citizens and community of Rye about preparing for climate change and sea level rise and how residents could help to minimize the damages in the future.”
–Kim Reed, Town of Rye Planning and Zoning Administrator
For more information about historical climate change and predictions for climate change in the future please visit Climate Change in the Piscataqua/Great Bay Region: Past Present and Future. For specifics about predicted rising sea level in coastal communities please review Sea-level Rise, Storm Surges, and Extreme Precipitation in Coastal New Hampshire: Analysis of Past and Projected Future Trends.