From extreme heat to torrential downpours, Weston and surrounding communities have withstood a rather extraordinary summer thus far. Without action, though, it’s certainly possible this may become the new normal. Climate change is manifesting itself right here in town, underscoring the need for more adaptation and resilience actions by and for our community.
Weston is set to face a myriad of impacts from the changing climate.
The effects of drought and heat waves are not limited to the West Coast, of course. In 2016, 90% of Massachusetts was in a Severe Drought, and over half of the state was in Extreme Drought, the most severe drought since the ‘60s. Climate projections show the occurrence of drought to be more common in future years, causing stress on our local wetlands, which make up nearly a fifth of Weston land.
Droughts are caused by little to no rainfall paired with rising temperatures. By 2050, Weston is set to have as many as 35 more days over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. With our summers set to feel more like those of South Carolina, heat waves not only exacerbate the occurrence of drought, but often lead to heat-related illnesses and significantly higher energy demands. Higher energy demands can cause financial stress, but it’s important to recognize health impacts, too. The health impacts of heat waves can disrupt kids’ focus on hot days in schools without air conditioning, can cause heat related illnesses for the elderly, and increase the prevalence of vector-borne diseases like EEE and Lyme.
Flooding and Intense Storms
But, it’s hard to imagine a drought after July’s intense, record-breaking rainfall and the dredges of the tropical storm that hit New England this August. Indeed, our region has seen more than 9 inches of rainfall higher than the average for this time of the month, which is 0.5 inches. Frighteningly, by 2050, we will be seeing more than 10 extra days of rainfall over one inch, which may seem small but is actually quite significant. One inch of rain equates to over 27,000 gallons over an acre of land, according to the Farmers' Almanac. Flooding not only blocks roads and areas around ponds and tributaries, but also can cause significant property damage. Combined with increased rain, we have seen over 70% increase in storm intensity between 1958 and 2012, and we are likely to see an increase of 6 inches of projected precipitation by 2050. Intense storms cause major problems in Weston in the form of power outages.
Adapting to a Changing Climate
Adapting to extreme weather is the focus of National Emergency Preparedness Month. Preparing for disasters means:
See Weston's Community Emergency Preparedness & Response Guide as well as the following one-page resources from FEMA for some quick tips to learn about how you, your family, and your pets can be protected in the event of an emergency.
Mitigating our Impact
Knowledge is power – so learning more about climate change in Weston is a great place to start the journey to reducing one’s environmental impact. Check out the Town's website at WestonMA.gov to find the community’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan Weston Ahead and attend meetings with our Sustainability Committee or Sustainable Weston Action Group.
There are so many ways to go green that positively affect the community and your wallet! Reducing energy is a great way to reduce the amount of carbon emissions generated from the power plants that provide your home’s energy needs. This can be done by using energy-efficient technology while also using your energy sparingly, and only when needed. Reducing your water usage and waste can also positively affect the environment while helping reduce bills.
Check out the Climate Action Toolkit for Homeowners (PDF), which provides information on how to reduce your environmental footprint – from energy usage to renewables, and from sustainable landscaping ideas to waste reduction, this toolkit shows you high-impact, high-return ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change in Town. The best way to surmount this challenge facing our community and our planet is to work together. Talk to one another, and support each other. Together, we can overcome!