Every Single New Hampshire County Hit By More Than Five Recent Weather Disaster; New Report Says Global Warming to Bring More Extreme Weather

Media Contacts
Jessica O'Hare

Interactive Online Map Shows County-by-County Weather-Related Disaster History

Environment New Hampshire Research and Policy Center

click for report here.

Dover, NH—Four months after Hurricane Sandy left 210,000 people without power and closed 32 state roads in New Hampshire, a new Environment New Hampshire Research & Policy Center report finds that weather-related disasters are already affecting hundreds of millions of Americans, and documents how global warming could lead to certain extreme weather events becoming even more common or more severe in the future.

The report found that every New Hampshire county has been hit by at least one federally declared weather-related disaster since 2007. 2010’s Cocheco flood damaged businesses and apartment properties around the Cocheco falls and is highlighted in the report.

“Every county in New Hampshire has endured extreme weather causing extremely big problems for New Hampshire’s health, environment and economy,” said Jessica O’Hare, Program Advocate with Environment New Hampshire Research & Policy Center. “Given that global warming will likely fuel even more extreme weather, we need to cut dangerous carbon pollution now.”

Senator David Watters of Dover, Rollinsford, Barrington and Somersworth is working on legislation to create a climate change mitigation strategy and address sea level rise in the State House: “Increasingly, low-lying coastal areas like the City of Dover and its neighboring communities are threatened by damaging extreme weather events,” said Sen. Watters. “Businesses, landowners and residents are left to clean up the mess. It’s time to take action to prepare ourselves for the damaging impacts of climate change and do all we can to slow its progress.”

The new report, entitled “In the Path of the Storm,” examined county-level weather-related disaster declaration data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for 2007 through 2012 to determine how many Granite Staters live in counties hit by recent weather disasters. The complete county-level data can be viewed through an interactive map available here. The report also details the latest science on the projected influence of global warming on heavy rain and snow; heat, drought and wildfires; and hurricanes and coastal storms. Finally, the report explores how the damage from even non-extreme weather events could increase due to other impacts of global warming like sea level rise.

Key findings from the Environment New Hampshire Research & Policy Center report include:
•    Since 2007, federally declared weather-related disasters affected all ten of New Hampshire’s counties. Since 2007, Rockingham County has experienced seven federally declared, weather-related disasters. Strafford County experienced six. Recent weather-related disasters in Strafford County included the snow blizzard of 2011, the Cocheco Floods of 2010, and the ice storm of 2008.
•    In 2012 alone, federally declared weather-related disasters affected New Hampshire counties housing almost 350,000 people. Nationally, 11 weather disasters inflicted economic damages of $1 billion or more.
•    Nationally, federally declared weather-related disasters have affected counties housing 243 million people since 2007—or nearly four out of five Americans.  
•    Other research shows that the NH has experienced an increase in heavy precipitation events, with storms delivering 33 percent more rain on average. The trend towards extreme precipitation is projected to continue in a warming world, even though higher temperatures and drier summers will likely also increase the risk of drought in between the rainy periods and for certain parts of the country.

Regional Planning Commissions like the Strafford Regional Planning Commission (SRPC) are putting together plans to address the destructive results from severe storms. Kyle Pimental, Regional Planner with SRPC commented on those plans: “Over the course of the last decade we have all seen the devastating impacts of coastal and inland flooding caused by the increased frequency of severe storm events. With a majority of the scientific community agreeing that the rising concentrations of greenhouse gases are attributed to human activities; it is time we end the debate on climate change and global warming and start asking ourselves, ‘What is it that we can do to better plan for the future?’”

O’Hare noted that every weather event is now a product of a climate system where global warming “loads the dice” for extreme weather, though in different ways for different types of extreme weather. While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently concluded that it is “virtually certain” that hot days will become hotter and “likely” that extreme precipitation events will continue to increase worldwide, there is less scientific consensus about the impact of global warming on events such as tornadoes.

“Extreme weather is happening, it is causing very serious problems, and global warming increases the likelihood that we’ll see even more extreme weather in the future,” said O’Hare. “Carbon pollution from our power plants, cars and trucks is fueling global warming, and so tackling global warming demands that we cut emissions of carbon pollution from those sources.”

The report was released as the Obama administration is considering whether to approve construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and as the Environmental Protection Agency is developing carbon pollution limits for power plants—the largest single source of the carbon pollution that is fueling global warming.

“Between the thousands of Granite Staters who have spoken in support of strong action to address global warming, and the threat that extreme weather poses to our communities and future generations, we desperately need the president to follow his recent strong statements on global warming with equally strong action,” said O’Hare. “We urge President Obama to finish implementing strong limits on carbon pollution for power plants, and to reject the dangerous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.”