What’s happening in Erie?
Erie County, Pennsylvania, which includes 76 miles of Lake Erie shoreline, Presque Isle State Park, the City of Erie, and eight other coastal municipalities, is becoming increasingly vulnerable to both the short and long-term impacts of extreme weather and climate variability (Erie County Hazard Mitigation Plan, 2018). Examples of these extremes occurred in 2017: the County experienced a record rainfall event of 8.46 inches in June (GoErie.com, 2017); a November tornado ripped through downtown Erie, devastating homes and businesses; and winter brought a record 166 inches of snow fall to the area, including a record-shattering storm that dumped 33 inches of snow in just 24 hours (National Weather Service, 2018). High winds and an increase in Lake Erie’s winter ice cover resulted in ice shoves and coastal damage. Each of these extreme weather events has resulted in costs to economic prosperity, personal property, the health and welfare of individuals, and to the sense of certainty and safety in local communities.
Overcoming these events and rising above in the aftermath has become the ‘new normal’ for residents and businesses as they repair damage to homes and infrastructure, deal with loss of revenue, and try to repair natural impacts such as erosion and coastal damage to land and freshwater resources. To assist Erie decision-makers in better planning and preparing for extreme weather, CRANE has been working with the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences Assessment Center (GLISA) to produce a series of papers that summarize the best available research on the observed and projected changes that could impact our region.
Table 1. below shows historical averages, historical changes, and projected changes into mid-and-late century for precipitation totals and extreme precipitation events in Northeast Pennsylvania. With the historical time period of 1951-2019 as a reference, annual precipitation in Erie has increased by 23.5%.
Table 2 shows historical average, historical change, and mid-to-late Century projections for temperatures and hot and cold days in Northwestern Pennsylvania. With the historical time period of 1951-2019 as a reference, annual temperatures in Erie have risen 2.9 degrees F.
Average temperatures are expected to increase by 6.4-9.6 degrees by the end of the century.
Heat waves could occur up to three times per year by the end of the century.
Precipitation is expected to change seasonally, with more precipitation in the winter and more drought in the summer. When precipitation does occur in the summer, it’s expected to be in the form of storm events that could cause heavy flooding.
Extreme weather events are expected to increase.
Snow cover in Pennsylvania is expected to shrink; although Erie could experience more lake-effect snow if the Lake doesn’t freeze over