Climate Change comes to the Hudson Valley

Scenic Hudson Climate Change Logo


The climate here in the Hudson Valley will be like today’s northern Virginia before the end of this century, according to Dr. Sacha Spector, the conservation scientist at Scenic Hudson. And that’s “if we get our act together right now” and start lowering global C02 output, says Spector. “Global climate change and warming are already happening, and are already affecting the Hudson Valley,” Spector made the remarks during a lecture on January 5 at the Newburgh Free Library.

In comparing growth zones from 1990 to 2006, our region is experiencing later frosts and earlier plant germination. We’re also seeing earlier bird migration and changing precipitation patterns. The regional biodiversity is changing as species adapt. Eventually the region’s forests will lose most of its hardwoods—maples, ashes—and will become oak-dominated. Crop varieties will change, and many invasives will likely thrive in a higher CO2 atmosphere. In coming years, these changes will accelerate and will have both ecological and economic impact on the Hudson Valley.

The lecture is presented by Scenic Hudson and is called “Climate Change in the Hudson Valley: The Road Forward.” Spector led off by saying that it would be “Not a huge bummer talk but a talk meant to energize us here in the Hudson Valley.”

After presenting the basic science behind climate change (a huge bummer), Spector said that communities must prepare on two fronts: mitigation and adaptation. “Mitigation is far easier and cheaper than adaptation,” said Spector. However, the genie is out of the bottle, and adaptation measures will be necessary.

Under New York State’s Climate Smart Communities program, towns and cities identify risks, assess vulnerabilities, and develop plans to minimalize the impacts. Mitigation measures would involve actions such as softer, greener infrastructure to minimize urban heat island effects, while adaptation would include plans for cooling centers and other emergency contingencies.

Water management will be a major issue. Spector points out that Newburgh is a coastal city, and by 2080, sea height under lower emissions is projected to rise 2.7 to 4.3 feet. While the Hudson Valley region will fair better than most in terms of not losing too much rainfall, the events will be fewer and larger, meaning lots of runoff and flooding issues. Spector says we will need flexible regional strategies to manage water supplies. Measures must be taken to preserve and protect the Hudson River’s thousands of acres of fresh water tidal marshes. Development should be steered away from shorelines and floodplains.

Scenic Hudson has been presenting this lecture throughout the mid-Hudson region this winter. The next lecture is scheduled for Tuesday, February 22, at Cornwall-on-Hudson.

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