United States
4Rh	United States
Environmental Protection
Agency	EPA 430-F-16-047
What Climate Change
Means for Vermont
Vermont's climate is changing. The state has warmed by
more than two degrees (F) in the last century. Throughout the
northeastern United States, spring is arriving earlier and bringing
more precipitation, heavy rainstorms are more frequent, and
summers are hotter and drier. Severe storms increasingly cause
floods that damage property and infrastructure. In the coming
decades, changing climate is likely to harm ecosystems, disrupt
agriculture and winter recreation, and increase some risks to
human health.
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
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, causing river floods to
occur earlier in the year.
Temperature change (°F):
-1 -0.5 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5
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 the Northeast increased 10 percent
from 1895 to 2011, and precipitation from extremely heavy
storms has increased 70 percent since 1958. During the
next century, average annual precipitation and the frequency
of heavy downpours are likely to keep rising. Average
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 fall.
So flooding is likely to be worse during winter and spring, and
droughts worse during summer and fall.
Rising temperatures in the last century. Vermont has warmed almost
twice as much as the rest of the contiguous 48 states. Source: EPA,
Climate Change Indicators in the United States.
In 2011, Hurricane Irene caused major flooding and damaged
infrastructure across Vermont, including this section of Route 107
in Stockbridge. Heavy storms are becoming more common as a
result of climate change. Credit: Vermont Agency of Transportation.
Changing climate threatens ecosystems by disrupting
relationships between species. Wildflowers and woody
perennials are blooming—and migratory birds are arriving—
sooner in spring. Not all species adjust in the same way,
however, so the food that one species needs may no longer
be available when that species arrives on its migration.
Warmer temperatures allow deer populations to increase,
leading to a loss of forest underbrush, which makes some
animals more vulnerable to predators.

Climate change can allow invasive species to expand their
ranges. For example, the hemlock woolly adelgid has infested
hemlock trees in southern Vermont. Infestation eventually kills
almost all hemlock trees, which are replaced by black oaks,
black birch, and other hardwoods. Warmer temperatures are
likely to enable the woolly adelgid to expand northward. The
loss of hemlock trees would remove the primary habitat for the
blue-headed vireo and Blackburnian warbler. It could also change
stream temperatures and cause streams to run dry more often,
harming brook trout and brown trout.
Changing climate may reduce the output of Vermont's
$700-million dairy industry, which provides 70 percent of the
state's farm revenue. Higher temperatures cause cows to eat
less and produce less milk. Climate change may also pose
challenges for field crops: 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.
Warmer temperatures are likely to shift the suitable habitat for
sugar maples farther north into Canada. Scientists do not
know whether warming will reduce maple syrup production in
Vermont over the next few decades: although Vermont is the
nation's leading maple syrup producer, maple syrup is also
produced in warmer places in Pennsylvania and southern New
Human Health
Climate change is likely to amplify some of the existing threats
to health in Vermont. Certain people are especially vulnerable,
including children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor.
Warmer weather could increase the incidence of some diseases
carried by insects and some respiratory conditions. 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.
Rising temperatures may also increase the length and severity of
the pollen season for plants such as ragweed, which has already
been observed in other regions.
Increase in Lyme disease between 1996 and 2013. Each dark dot
shows one case reported in 1996; light dots show 2013. The increased
range shown here has been attributed to factors other than climate
change. Nevertheless, additional warming will lengthen the season
during which people are exposed to Lyme disease and may allow the
disease to spread to colder areas. Source: CDC.
Winter Recreation
Warmer winters may bring more rain and less snow to Vermont.
A decline in snowfall would shorten the season during which the
ground is covered with snow, which could harm recreational
industries like skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling, and local
economies that depend on them.
During the wann winter of 2015-2016, ski areas had less snow and
fewer visitors than during a normal season, which forced several
resorts to close early. This photo shows Mad River Glen's final day of
skiing in mid-March. Credit: Eric Friedman, Mad River Glen,
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.