Climate Science

UPDATE April 2022 —
The Science of Climate Change Explained: Facts, Evidence and Proof
Definitive answers to the big questions.

This short video is a great introduction to the causes driving climate change, and the effects on the earth that are resulting.

What Causes Climate Change. National Geographic, Aug 28, 2017.

British climate scientist Ed Hawkins has developed a new set of climate visualizations, communicating the long term rise in temperatures for particular locations as a changing set of colors from blue to red.

In this image of global surface temperatures dark blue represents very cool and dark red represents very warm. Each stripe represents a year from 1850 to 2017. The difference between the coolest and warmest years is 2.43°F. The four warmest years are the last four.

Annual global temperatures from 1850-2017

The concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere is now higher than at any time since humans have existed. Read the article

The science is clear: The world is warming dangerously, humans are the cause of it, and a failure to act today will deeply affect the future of the Earth. Click below for a seven-day New York Times crash course on climate change, in which reporters from the Times' Climate desk address the big questions:

We Are Already On Track To Catastrophic Warming
From the New York Times — 2019

The Earth has already warmed 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the 19th century. In October 2018, a major new United Nations report looked at the consequences of jumping to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius.

Half a degree may not sound like much. But even that much warming could expose tens of millions more people worldwide to life-threatening heat waves, water shortages and coastal flooding. Half a degree may mean the difference between a world with coral reefs and Arctic summer sea ice and a world without them.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA ) September 2019 was the second warmest September on record for the US, but the warmest September on record for all of North America.

A Hotter Future Is Certain, Climate Panel Warns. But How Hot Is Up to Us. NY Times, August 2021.
Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040. NY Times, October 2018
Why Half a Degree of Global Warming Is a Big Deal. NY Times, October 2018

The Effects of Climate Change on Human Health

All the aspects of climate change will have direct or indirect effects on the health of humans and other living creatures. Some of these effects are easy to imagine, and some are less obvious. They will vary, of course, from region to region. A search for "impacts of climate change on health" yields many sites.

One extremely thorough, well-organized and easy-to-understand survey, "The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment" can be found here.

The Economic Impact of Climate Change

We hear about the impact of hurricanes, droughts and wildfires on the lives and places they destroy. But do we know the financial cost of these disasters?

According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (CCES):

An October 2018 report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says what will happen to the world when it gets 1.5°C, or 2.7°F, warmer than preindustrial levels. The report puts the cost of a 1.5°C increase at $54 trillion.

The financial cost of climate-change disasters is another compelling reason to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

The Impact on the United States

The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), completed in November 2018, is a comprehensive and authoritative report on climate change and its impacts in the United States.
Without substantial and sustained global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and regional initiatives to prepare for anticipated changes, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.”

Mandated by congress, this report is issued every 4 years and combines the research of 13 federal agencies.

The Impact on New York State

In 2015 carbon dioxide contributed 82% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the US.

According to studies presented by New York State Energy, Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA):

Without a dramatic decrease in the global generation of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, critical changes can be expected in New York's climate over the next century.”

Changes have already been observed across the state. Here's what's predicted for the future:

New York State has an ambitious energy plan: reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 from 1990 levels, and get 50% of our energy from renewable sources.

Climate change is a threat not just in New York, but across our nation and around the world. The number of heat waves, major hurricanes and heavy downpours has increased, and the strength of these events has also increased according to the National Climate Assessment.

The Impact on Ulster County

A new tool from Cornell University allows us to see the history of climate change in Ulster County. The Cornell Climate Smart Farming (CSF) Program focused on developing agricultural decision support tools and resources to help farmers better manage the risks of climate change, and it can be used by the layman to determine climate change in local counties; go to

The CSF tool includes the following table on changes in temperature in Ulster County between 1950 and 2013:

As the table shows, the temperature rose by 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit over 1950-2013, and changed dramatically starting in 1980, where the trend shows an 0.7 degree rise from then until 2013. The year 1989 is generally given as the time when scientists realized that the Earth's climate was changing dramatically because of man's impact on the environment.

In creating these tools, the CSF program collaborated closely with the Northeast Regional Climate Center (NRCC) at Cornell University, part of the RCC Program administered by NOAA in the United States. The tools rely on the NRCC-led data through the Applied Climate Information System (ACIS), which is an operational system that provides access to climate data and products to users via web services, and is replicated at multiple RCCs throughout the country. The CSF Tools also utilize daily temperature observations from the National Weather Service (NWS) Cooperative Observer Network, and daily precipitation derived from NWS radar data.

The Impact on Saugerties

The part of Saugerties projected to be below annual flood level by 2050. See details of how this is calculated.

NOAA projects a 67% risk of at least one flood over 6 ft taking place between today and 2050 in the Saugerties area, due to climate change. See an interactive map of the areas of projected Saugerties flooding

The Impact on Your City

2018 was the fourth-warmest year on record. In a database of more than 3,800 cities compiled by AccuWeather, about 83 percent saw average temperatures higher than normal last year. To see the temperature rise in 2018 in your city, use this interactive page from the NY times.