Office of the Maine State Climatologist, Malcolm Burson (State of Maine climate Change Adaptation Stakeholder Process) & Department of Environmental Protection
Coupled natural and human systems (CNH) are generally known to negotiate the fluctuating weather and climate—for example, surprises and cyclical swings. However, systematic shifts (such as, warming trends, persistent droughts, record-breaking floods, storms and heat waves that have natural or anthropogenic origins) that persist and push the climate-related impacts and sensitivities beyond the “historical envelope of variability” pose significant threat to the health and integrity of these complex CNH. A major dilemma for scientists and decision-makers is that of determining the levels of mitigation and adaptation needed to supplant the current measures to ensure societal and environmental well-being and security.
Adaptation considerations for Maine
In Maine, the coastal communities exemplify an important segment of state’s population; changing climate has the potential to impact the economic, ecological, social, and cultural resources. Individual extreme events, such as the unusually wet Summer of 2009 provide examples of the widespread societal and economic disruption and impacts on Maine’s coastal communities. The Maine Healthy Beaches Program, which monitors coastal water quality, experienced 250 beach advisories or closures due to rain events this year. This greatly impacts tourism, which is the largest industry in Maine. Municipal infrastructure and coastal ecosystem function are compromised with such extreme events, as was also demonstrated by the 2005 Patriot’s Day Storm which flooded many areas in southern Maine and a more recent landslide off a bluff area in Stockton Springs.
Adaptation in a changing climate requires a sound knowledge of the location-specific contexts, challenges across various sectors of the society and economy, and the nature of interconnectedness between natural and human systems. Efforts to elucidate place-based climate information needs and vulnerabilities are often stymied by lack of community-scale networks. These networks, if present, are formal or informal collectives of scientists and stakeholders at the community level (citizens, groups, local governance) where scientists can actively probe, understand, and facilitate the use of climate information. Maine’s Sea Grant and Cooperative Extension programs have a long record of proactive engagement and research on a variety of resource management and decision-making issues. The research team will employ community-based research and outreach, as well as detailed analyses of historical and projected climate scenarios and weather forecast products to address two research questions:
Research Question 1: What are the knowledge gaps and information entry points for weather and climate information that directly relate to the climate-related vulnerabilities of the coastal communities in Maine?"
Research Question 2: What are the recent changes in weather and climate variability on time scales most relevant towards support of decision-making and planning needs in the select communities? Furthermore, what is the utility of medium-range ensemble weather forecasts for decision-making?
Results from this research will reflect the co-evolution of biophysical analyses and community-based elucidation of information needs. Results will be disseminated through
multimedia platforms (for example, Maine Climate News) and meetings between researchers and community partners to develop a mapping of local contexts and concerns with weather climate information-based solutions for decision-support and adaptation.