United States	AllOUSt 2016
Environmental Protection	y
Agency	EPA 430-F-16-032
What Climate Change
New Jersey
New Jersey's climate is changing. The state has warmed
by about three degrees (F) in the last century, heavy
rainstorms are more frequent, and the sea is rising about
one inch every six years. Higher water levels are eroding
beaches, submerging low lands, exacerbating coastal
flooding, and increasing the salinity of estuaries and
aquifers. In the coming decades, changing the climate is
likely to increase coastal and inland flooding, harm
coastal and inland ecosystems, disrupt fishing and
farming, and increase some risks to human health.
Our climate is changing because the earth is warming.
People have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in
the air by 40 percent since the late 1700s. Other heat-
trapping greenhouse gases are also increasing. These
gases have warmed the surface and lower atmosphere of
our planet about one degree during the last 50 years.
Evaporation increases as the atmosphere warms, which
increases humidity, average rainfall, and the frequency of
heavy rainstorms in many places—but contributes to
drought in others.
Greenhouse gases are also changing the world's oceans
and ice cover. Carbon dioxide reacts with water to form
carbonic acid, so the oceans are becoming more acidic.
The surface of the ocean has warmed about one degree
during the last 80 years. Warming is causing snow to melt
earlier in spring, and mountain glaciers are retreating.
Even the great ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica are
shrinking. Thus the sea is rising at an increasing rate.
Temperature change (°F):
-1 -0.5 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5
Rising temperatures in the last century. New Jersey has warmed
more than twice as much as most of the nation. Source: EPA,
Climate Change Indicators in the United States.
Increasing Temperature and Changing Precipitation Patterns
Rising temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns are likely to increase the intensity of
both floods and droughts. Average annual precipitation in New Jersey has increased
5 to 10 percent in the last century, and precipitation from extremely heavy storms has
increased 70 percent in the Northeast since 1958. During the next century, annual pre-
cipitation and the frequency of heavy downpours are likely to keep rising. Precipitation is
likely to increase during winter and spring, but not change significantly during summer
and fall. Rising temperatures will melt snow earlier in spring and increase evaporation,
and thereby dry the soil during summer and fail. So changing the climate is likely to
intensify river flooding during winter and spring, and drought during summer and fall.
Rising Seas and Retreating Shores
Sea level is rising more rapidly along the New Jersey shore than in most coastal areas
because the land is sinking. If the oceans and atmosphere continue to warm, the sea is
likely to rise eighteen inches to four feet along the New Jersey shore in the next century.
As sea level rises, the lowest dry lands are submerged and become either tidai wetland
or open water. Many wetlands will be submerged, but not all: the freshwater wetlands
along the Delaware River upstream from the Commodore Barry Bridge build their own
land by capturing sediments carried by the river, and these wetlands are likely to keep
pace with the rising sea during the next century. Nevertheless, most salt marshes be-
tween Cape May and the Meadowlands are unlikely to keep pace if sea level rises three
feet. Wetlands along Delaware Bay in Cumberland County are even more vulnerable, and
likely to be lost if the sea rises two feet. Tidal flats are also likely to become open water.
Beaches erode as sea level rises. A higher ocean level makes it more likely that storm
waters will wash over a barrier island or open new inlets. The United States Geological
Survey estimates that barrier islands of the New Jersey shore from Bay Head to Cape
May would be broken up by new inlets or lost to erosion if sea level rises three feet by
the year 2100, unless people take actions to reduce erosion. Bay beaches may also be
eliminated in some areas. Many of Delaware Bay's beaches are narrow, with wetlands
immediately inland. Along parts of Delaware Bay and bay sides of most barrier islands,
people have built walls and other shore protection structures that eliminate the beach
once the shore erodes up to them.
This beach in Pennsville along the Delaware River could be lost as sea level rises, if the shore
erodes up to the shore protection wall to the right. © James G. Titus; used by permission.

Coastal Ecosystems
The loss of tidal marshes could harm fish arid birds that depend on a
marsh for food or shelter. Blue crab, perch, weakfish, flounder, and
rockfish rely on the tidal marshes in Delaware Bay to hide from predators
and to feed on mussels, fiddler crabs, and other species. Sea turtles and
shorebirds also feed on some of the species that inhabit these marshes.
Great blue herons, black ducks, ospreys, red-winged blackbirds, and
several other bird species also use the sait marshes in Delaware Bay. As
marshes erode, fish may benefit initially as more tidal channels form,
which would make more of the marsh accessible. But after a point, the
continued erosion would make less marsh available, so populations offish
and birds could decline. In Barnegat Bay and Little Egg Harbor, the rising
sea is already eroding and submerging small marsh islands, which are
important nesting areas that protect common terns, black skimmers, and
oystercatchers from land-based predators.
The loss of bay beaches and tidal flats would also threaten some species.
Delaware Bay is a major stopover area for six species of migratory
shorebirds that feed on its beaches and tidal flats, including most of the
Western Hemisphere's red knot population. Nearly a million birds feed
on the horseshoe crab eggs on the bay's sandy beaches. Diamondback
terrapin nest on estuarine beaches in New Jersey.
Changing temperatures could also disrupt ecosystems. For example, if
water temperatures exceed 86°F during summer, eelgrass could be lost,
which would remove a key source of food for many fish.
Saltwater Intrusion
As sea level rises, salt water can mix farther inland or upstream in bays,
rivers, and wetlands. Because water on the surface is connected to
ground water, salt water can also intrude into aquifers near the coast.
Soils may become too salty for the crops and trees that currently grow in
low-lying areas.
Storms, Homes, and Infrastructure
As sea level rises, coastal homes
and infrastructure flood more often
because storm surges become higher
as well. Although hurricanes are rare,
homes along the ocean are vulnerable
to erosion and storm waves. The bay
sides of several barrier islands are so
low that some streets and yards flood
at high tide when strong winds blow
from the east. During Hurricane Sandy,
flooding and storm waves destroyed
coastal homes and recreational
facilities, washed out roads, inundated
rail tunnels, and damaged essential
power and wastewater management
Seaside Heights in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.; Official White House photo
by Sonya N. Herbert
Wind speeds and rainfall intensity during hurricanes and tropical storms
are likely to increase as the climate warms. Rising sea level is likely to
increase flood insurance rates, while more frequent storms could increase
the deductible for wind damage in homeowner insurance policies.
Fishing and Farms
Changing the climate may harm commercial fishing in New Jersey. Higher
ocean acidity would impair the ability of young scallops and surf dams to
build shells, and potentially reduce the populations of these two shellfish,
which account for about two-thirds of New Jersey's commercial fishing
revenues. Higher acidity in estuaries, as well as the loss of wetlands
and eelgrass, could harm crabs and hard shell clams, which account for
another 15 percent of fishing revenues. As ocean temperatures rise, some
fish species are moving northward or into deeper waters to remain within
their normal temperature ranges.
Climate change may also pose challenges for agriculture: some farms may
be harmed if more hot days and droughts reduce crop yields, or if more
flooding and wetter springs delay their planting dates. Other farms may
benefit from a longer growing season and the fertilizing effect of
carbon dioxide.
Human Health
Hot days can be unhealthy—even dangerous. Certain people are
especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, and the
poor. High air temperatures can cause heat stroke and dehydration,
and affect people's cardiovascular and nervous systems. Warmer
temperatures can also increase the formation of ground-level ozone, a
component of smog that can contribute to respiratory problems. Rising
temperatures may also increase the length and severity of the pollen
season for plants such as ragweed.
The risk of some diseases carried by insects may also increase. The ticks
that transmit Lyme disease are active when temperatures are above 45°F,
so warmer winters could lengthen the season during which ticks can
become infected or people can be exposed to the ticks. Higher tempera-
tures would also expand the area that is warm enough for the Asian tiger
mosquito, a common carrier of West Nile virus. The number of cases
may or may not increase, depending on what people do to control insect
populations and avoid insect bites.
A flooded restaurant on Long Beach
Island. © James G. Titus; used by
The sources of information about climate and the impacts of climate change in this publication are: the national climate assessments by the U.S. Global Change Research
Program, synthesis and assessment products by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, assessment reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and EPA's
Climate Change Indicators in the United States. Mention of a particular season, location, species, or any other aspect of an impact does not imply anything about the likelihood
or importance of aspects that are not mentioned. Depiction of trade names does not constitute endorsement of the product. For more information about climate change science,
impacts, responses, and what you can do, visit EPA's Climate Change website at www.epa.aov/climatechanae.