Climate Change in Connecticut: What can we expect? Can we prepare?

May 14th, 2011 | By | Category: Top Story

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that heat trapped by increased greenhouse gases will increase temperatures by 3.2 to 70F by 2100, and sea levels will rise between seven and 21 inches.  The Union of Concerned Scientist’ Northeast Climate Impact Assessment (NECIA) estimates that over the next several decades, air temperatures across the Northeast will rise 2.5 to 40F in winter and 1.5 to 3.40 F in summer.  In Niantic Bay, at the eastern end of Long Island Sound, the year-round average surface water temperature has increased about 1.80F since 1976, according to data collected by Millstone Environmental Laboratory.

Climate change projections such as these prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Climate Ready Estuaries Program (CRE), through the EPA Long Island Sound Study (LISS), to fund in 2010 a CTDEP partnership with the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI)-Local Governments for Sustainability to assess potential impacts of climate change on the coastline and infrastructure of the town of Groton as a model community.  The Groton Coastal Climate Change Adaptation Project brought together more than 100 state, federal and local government representatives, as well as academics, non–governmental organizations (NGOs), and other stakeholders.

Three 1-day workshops were help in January, March and June of 2010 featuring many speakers and breakout sessions, both highlighting and inspiring numerous climate change adaptation initiatives.   Each workshop focused on one of the following topics:

  • The climate adaptation planning process and projected regional climate changes;
  • Identification of vulnerabilities to projected changes in regional climate; and
  • Identification of potential actions that could be used to increase resilience towards existing and projected changes in regional climate.

The Groton project was not intended to complete an entire adaptation strategy for a community but to engage federal, state and local government to see how the adaptation planning process for a community in a home rule state would work.  After the workshops, CTDEP presented a draft report, Preparing for Climate Change in Groton, Connecticut. The report identified physical, planning and educational strategies to increase local resilience to sea level rise and coastal flooding.

As a result of the workshops, Groton has started utilizing the adaptation strategies, including adding adaptation criteria into their capital improvement plan and into the update of their conservation and development plan.  The success of the Groton workshops led to additional grant funding through which the lessons learned will be shared with other communities by development of an Adaptation Resource Toolbox (ART).   The ART will be a repository of information on climate change adaptation tools, resources and participating organizations that can be used by local governments in Connecticut to help begin adaptation efforts.  ICLEI and DEP have created the Connecticut State Climate Protection network to bring together municipalities concerned about climate change mitigation and adaptation.  The first meeting convened on November 22, 2010.  An increasing number of Connecticut municipalities are undertaking climate change planning.  Visit and search under the “Towns” tab for the Menu of Municipal Climate Actions and Resources to find activities in your town.

For more information on climate change planning activities, contact Jennifer Pagach of the CTDEP Office of Long Island Sound Programs (OLISP) at (860) 424-3295 or at Additional information  on the Groton project can be found in the CTDEP OLISP Sound Outlook Newsletter, October 2010 and February 2011 editions,

Download the spring 2011 edition of the DEP’s Torrent Flood Loss Reduction Newsletter (pdf) here:

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