Three Ways Climate Change Impacts New Jersey

As a volunteer at Reeves-Reed Arboretum this fall (my local Arboretum, of which I’m also a member!), I was asked to write a blog post about how climate change impacts the great Garden State. Read below!


Climate change, the rise of global temperatures on Earth, can be attributed to the increase of humans using fossil fuels. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can rise from many sources, including pollution from coal plants for electricity generation and the transportation industry in the form of car exhaust. And as the world warms from these emissions, we can see impacts all around us.

Climate change, the rise of global temperatures on Earth, can be attributed to the increase of humans using fossil fuels. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can rise from many sources, including pollution from coal plants for electricity generation and the transportation industry in the form of car exhaust. And as the world warms from these emissions, we can see impacts all around us

Here are the top three ways climate change impacts us here in New Jersey.

More Extreme Weather and Heavy Downpours

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An increase in greenhouse gases in our atmosphere means more available water, which means an increase in heavy precipitation events — or heavy downpours. We can see this trend prominently in the Northeast, including in New Jersey, which you may have noticed this spring and summer. With heavy rain comes flash floods, which can lead to property damage, which you may have even seen at your own home.

Billion-dollar weather and climate disasters, are increasing, too. Four out of 11 billion-dollar disasters so far this year were in the Northeast — the Northeast winter storms of January and March and the severe weather we experienced from May 1-5 and 13-15 made the list of some of the the costliest disasters in the whole country this year so far.

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Sea Level Rise

Climate change is also increasing the frequency of coastal flooding and storm surge at properties down the shore. From Climate Central: “The combination of water expansion as the ocean has warmed and the melting of land ice into the oceans has driven sea level up about seven inches since 1900, and the rise is accelerating.”

The amount of sea level rise in the future depends on our emissions, but coastal flooding is already affecting coastal communities in New Jersey, and property values are already being affected.

Shifting Seasons

You may have noticed the weather this year changed the timing of our fall foliage here in New Jersey — even here at the Arboretum! The timing of fall foliage is impacted by temperature, sunlight, and rainfall, so you can blame this year’s delay on climate change. Falls have been warming since the 1970’s, which can delay the peak fall foliage we come to know and love in the Garden State!  

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Summer is also lasting longer, which can “take a toll on health and air quality,” according to Climate Central. Longer summers can lead to shorter winters, which means pests like ticks and mosquitoes stick along longer, too. Yikes!

Earth Week 2014 Thursday: National Parks Week!

Even though you may have missed the free National Parks admission last weekend, you can still take advantage of National Parks week (April 20-27).

Okay, so that video was a little cheesy. But it tells us that there are 401 US National Parks to explore, and it reminds us to go wild! Also, Junior Ranger Day is April 26th! Don’t think you have a park near you? Check out the Sierra Club’s list.

National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) created a “find a park” tool where you can do just that – and not just one near you, but across the country. And if you can’t visit any time soon, you can buy a print from the See America project! Check out one of my favorites below:

See America: Joshua Tree National Park (print by Adam S. Doyle)

There are other ways to explore National Parks this week, as I outlined in my Virtual Explorations post from November. You can explore natural sites from around the world on Google Maps or peruse the US National Parks from space in a NASA Flickr photo set. You can also explore and learn more through another NASA photo gallery.

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (from above) – NASA Earth Observatory Photo Gallery

I’m feeling nostalgic this week, because instead of hiking through canyons or hugging trees, I have been inside working on homework and other assignments. But this summer, I am going on a road trip. More details to follow, but until then, feel free to explore my past National Parks blog posts!

Earth Week 2014 Wednesday: The Canopy Project

Aside from promoting the “green cities” theme for Earth Day this year, the Earth Day Network is also behind The Canopy Project campaign. You can watch the promotional video below (with a short advertisement about Jaden Smith’s movie “After Earth”).

Here are some of the most important points from the initiative:

  • The Canopy Project plants trees that help communities – especially the world’s impoverished communities – sustain themselves and their local economies.”
  • “Over the past three years, The Canopy Project, has planted over 1.5 million trees in 18 countries.”
  • In the US, projects to restore urban canopies have been completed in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Flint, and Chicago.”
  • “Our tree plantings are supported by sponsors and individual donations and carried out in partnership with nonprofit tree planting organizations throughout the world. We work in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme’s Billion Trees Campaign. Each tree planted is counted toward A Billion Acts of Green”

As mentioned in the above commentary, efforts to plant trees and reverse the effects of climate change have been happening all over the world. In Italy, residents are preserving local wetlands and forests on a major floodplain. In Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden Uganda and the United States, activists are planting trees everywhere, even in urban areas.

So, if you didn’t know, planting a tree is a great step to help the Earth. They reverse land degradation (by helping mitigate erosion), provide food and income, and filter the air so we can breathe. Planting trees has been at the forefront of conservation since the beginning – so go out there and plant one!

International Day of Action for Rivers 2014

Tomorrow, March 14th, is the International Day of Action for Rivers (and Against Dams)!

Hosted by International Rivers, this day focuses on efforts to protect rivers from destructive river projects, including dams. This international organization works in five continents with locals affected by dams and river projects:

Today, almost everywhere that a big dam is being planned or built there is organized local opposition. In communities where existing dams have created severe problems, dam-affected people are demanding reparations. (History and Accomplishments)

You may be wondering how building dams affects the environment, people, and economics. According to the website, environmental problems include slowing/stopping of fish migration, due to the disruption of river flow. Also, the creation of a stagnant pool of water upstream of the dam is a problem because it causes chemical and ecological changes in the water that affect plant life and the ecosystem by detrimentally changing it.

In terms of humans, building dams, especially in developing countries, affects their housing because the large network of canals, irrigation systems and reservoirs often need to go in place of houses. Also, the creation of a dam ruins the existing water system, which may be a source of food, water, transportation and other activities (like washing clothes) for the people downstream. Lastly, the economic impacts include large construction costs and an increasingly longer amount of time to build, affecting the community negatively.

Photo from IR’s trip to the Nam Ou River in Laos, a country in South East Asia. According to Wikipedia, this river is very important for transportation in Laos, and would be ruined with a dam.

In celebration of the day, groups all over the world promote action and education through events on March 14th. Check out the map of events from 2013! On the website, you can register your 2014 event online, download materials for your event, and tell your own personal river story.

As always, you can also follow their progress online. For the Facebook event this year, click here. To follow them on Twitter, click here. You can also see photos of their past and current projects on their Flickr photostream.