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Evaluating Climate Change's Role In New England's Summer Of Extreme Weather

Experts said climate change could be related to near-record — and, in some cases, record – rainfall this month in southern New England.

Mary Stampone, a professor of geography at the University of New Hampshire, said climate change makes extreme weather events worse — similar to what's been taking place in July.

"So it makes dry conditions drier, and wet conditions wetter," said Stampone, who also serves as New Hampshire's state climatologist. "And so, in the summer, the temperatures are getting warmer. When it's wet, the air can hold more moisture, and so storm systems that pass by can contain more water."

As for future summers, UMass Amherst professor Michael Rawlins said climate models indicate more extreme precipitation events in the region — at least in the fall and winter.

"We're not really sure if we can expect to see long-term trends increasing precipitation in the summer months," Rawlins said.

Rawlins said that's because there's less of a clear historical trend for July precipitation.

But not all of New England has been dealing with wet weather. Many northern parts are experiencing drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux, a professor at the University of Vermont and the state's climatologist, said the vast difference in precipitation in New England could also be an impact of climate change.

"Thinking about the variations we're seeing – the variability in storm tracks, the variability in who got rainfall when, and whether it's ongoing – is part of the way we understand how climate is changing," Dupigny-Giroux said.

Bradley International Airport near Hartford has reported 9.71 inches of rain this month. That's the third most on record for July, with a week and a half remaining. The record is 11.24 inches, set in 1938, according to the National Weather Service.

Kristopha Hohn / Flickr/https://www.flickr.com/photos/seishin17/

Copyright 2021 New England Public Media

Adam is based at New England Public Radio’'s Berkshire County news bureau in Pittsfield, where he has been since August, 2015. He joined NEPR as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.