As the spectacular New England fall foliage gives way to another of the regions infamous winters, many wonder what this year will bring. Long-time residents think winter just isnt what it used to be in New England. And mounting evidence from a series of studies suggests theyre right. The total number of days of ice on the regions rivers has declined significantly in recent decades and particularly in the spring, according to the latest U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research published in the journal Climatic Change.
For this study, hydrologists from the USGS Maine Water Science Center in Augusta examined data from stream-flow-gauging stations in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont that measure the height and flow of rivers. They looked at the number of days each year of ice-affected flow -- days when there is enough ice in a river to affect the relation between the height and the flow of the river – and found that they decreased significantly during the 20th century at 12 of 16 rivers they studied. The total winter days of ice-affected flow decreased by 20 days from 1936 to 2000 for the average of the 9 longest-record rivers, with most of the decrease occurring since the 1960s.
Only four of the 16 rivers had significantly later first dates of ice-affected flow in the fall (ice-in), but twelve of the 16 rivers had significantly earlier spring ice-out. On average, the ice-out dates became earlier by 11 days from 1936 to 2000, again with most of the change occurring since the 1960s.
Glenn Hodgkins | EurekAlert!
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