What does a warming climate mean for Maine?

A story by David Reidmiller from 2023

David Reidmiller Ph.D.
Director, Climate Center
Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Climate change affects all aspects of life across Maine. In the state’s forested regions, new pests and diseases pose risks to cherished ecosystems and commercially valuable timber, in part because of more hospitable conditions brought about by climate change. A warmer, wetter atmosphere increases the risk of flooding and erosion—threatening scores of communities nestled along the banks of Maine’s rivers, creeks, and streams. Ocean water levels have risen by more than eight inches in Casco Bay over the past century, and the rate of that sea level rise is increasing.

As a result, risks are only going to grow in the decades ahead to biodiversity hotspots, such as salt marshes, as well as important tourism, recreation areas, and critical infrastructure (e.g. wastewater treatment facilities) in the coastal zone. The waters of the Gulf of Maine are experiencing some of the fastest warming rates among any part of the ocean around the world. This poses risks to—and opportunities for—commercially valuable wild harvest fisheries and aquaculture farmers.

Climate impacts from other regions affect life here, too. Increasingly, frequent and intense wildfires in the Mountain West reduce air quality here in Maine, posing health risks to asthmatics and impeding outdoor recreation opportunities. The long-term trend of declines in Arctic sea ice cover is altering large-scale weather patterns that influence the conditions in Maine. Increasingly, extreme meteorological events like hurricanes or typhoons, droughts, and floods overseas can disrupt supply chains, increasing consumer costs for food, electronics, etc.

In Maine, as elsewhere, climate change means the past is no longer an accurate predictor of the future. It means Mainers are now experiencing and interacting with the natural world in ways that are unprecedented on human timescales.

Parking lot of Bug Light Park in South Portland. December 23, 2022.
Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Widgery Wharf looking onto Chandler’s Wharf in downtown Portland. December 23, 2022. Gulf of Maine Research Institute

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