Longer, hotter heatwaves, contaminated drinking water wells, and more coastal flooding are on tap for the Boston area due to climate change and sea level rise between now and the end of the century. That’s according to a study of 101 cities and towns in the Boston area released today by UMass Boston and the Greater Boston Research Advisory Group (CBRAG).
Among the findings included in the Climate Change Impacts and Projections for the Greater Boston Area report:
- Average annual temperatures could range from 3 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher by the end of this century compared with the start of the century.
- Days over 90 degrees could increase from an average of 10 to as many as 80 a year.
- Traditional food products, such as cranberries, maple syrup and lobsters and shell fish, could be lost. (Lobsters and some fish are already moving north to escape warmer ocean water.)
- Reduced snowpack and faster evaporation due to higher temperatures could lead to a reduction in groundwater needed for drinking water, agriculture and industry.
- Sea level rise could contaminate coastal drinking water wells by forcing salt water into fresh groundwater aquifers.
- Sea level rise could also boost the number of days Boston experiences sunny day or “nuisance flooding” from approximately 15 days a year to over 180 days.
- Quicker, more intense rain storms combined with higher seas and groundwater tables could lead to even worse flooding in coastal areas.
- Less hurricanes are expected to hit the region, but the ones that do are likely to be stronger and more damaging.
Researchers say the actual outcomes of their predictions will be influenced by the world’s ability to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Commenting on the report, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said: “We know that the window of time to act on climate change is closing quickly and it is critical to align our policies and programs with the latest science. The CBRAG report analyzes Boston’s climate risk projections so we can make the most informed decisions on how to protect our communities from unavoidable impacts while mitigating emissions that contribute to climate change.”
Boston and the surrounding communities can use the report to map out their response to climate change and sea level rise challenges. Real estate owners and buyers in the affected region should stay up on the proposed solutions as they can impact their taxes, access to potable water, operational life of their septic systems where used, quality of life, and, ultimately, property value.