2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous United States.


A report released by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in January 2013 announced that the average U.S. temperature for 2012 was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest average since records started in 1895. For many observers, the record was a clear sign that climate change impacts are taking effect now.


For Manomet Senior Program Leader Eric Walberg, the news was another signal that climate change adaptation needs to become a priority for landowners and community leaders.


For the past three years, Manomet researchers have been developing site-specific climate change adaptation plans for 11 landowner and landscape scale sites in Maine and Massachusetts through a project funded by the Kresge Foundation. The sites range from a privately-owned cranberry bog to entire watersheds.


“The fact that 2012 was the warmest year on record in the United States speaks to the importance of planning in ways that consider the impacts of climate change,” said Walberg. “The work we are doing with this project will make these 11 sites better prepared to adapt to those impacts and will serve as a model in the development of adaptation plans elsewhere.”


Walberg and Project Manager Jackie Sartoris recently held adaptation workshops at two of the sites, the Taunton Watershed in southeastern Massachusetts and the Sagadahoc watershed in Maine, to discuss adaptation plans with representatives from government agencies and community groups.


At the Taunton workshop in October 2012 participants discussed the Taunton plan, which includes green infrastructure-based approaches to dealing with flooding and habitat issues, such as maintaining and restoring forested riparian buffers and linking significant forest and wetland areas with open space corridors that support the migration of species driven by climate change.


At the Sagadahoc workshop, Walberg reviewed historic and projected climate change in New England.  


Sartoris presented the results of an extensive community survey, which included officials from 37 Maine towns, to determine whether they had thought about planning and development in ways that preserve natural systems.


“The general finding of the survey was that due to limited budgets and limited planning staff, most of the localities that were surveyed have not adequately prepared for climate change,” said Walberg. “Many of these towns have a long way to go in adapting to climate change and its impacts.”


Sartoris developed recommendations for measures that Maine towns can take to incorporate climate change into their planning. These steps are being incorporated into the adaptation plans of several of the project’s Maine sites.  


Another workshop will be held in Bridgton, Maine on January 25 to discuss the adaptation plan for the Sebago Lake watershed.  


Reports for the Taunton watershed, Sagadahoc watershed and Sebago Lake watershed adaptation plans will be released in the spring of 2013.


– Haley Jordan