Climate Change Q&A

Ask an Expert: Do you have a question about climate change science or its impacts in the Northeastern U.S.? Send it to us at We can’t promise personal answers to all the questions we receive. But we will feature the most pertinent to our audience on this site. In the meantime, you can view answers to previous questions (below), and find more resources at our Climate Science Tools and Resources page.


no slow down graph

Is climate change slowing down?

Question: I heard climate change has been slowing down. Is it? Answer: No! For the last decade or so, there has been a lot of talk about a global warming ‘hiatus’ or slow down, even though the last decade was the hottest one of the instrumental record period (back to the late 1800s). But was .. Read More

Percent Increase (1958-2010) in Heavy Precipitation Events

Are recent heavy rain events due to climate change?

Answer: Across the northern hemisphere, a trend for increased frequency of extreme rainfall events has been observed over the past few decades, and climate models project that this trend is likely to continue. (See the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on extreme events.) Even in regions where total annual rainfall is decreasing, there is a trend .. Read More

Lake effect snows

Will climate change mean that we will have more snow events to plow?

Question: I am a county commissioner in Western, NY.. in charge of planning for snow removal. If temperatures are going to increase by 3 to 5°F and precipitation is going to increase by an average of 10% by 2050, what is the net result for the number of snow events that we will need to .. Read More

Graph showing temperature vs. solar activity

Is it true that climate change is being caused by natural variations in the sun’s output, not human activity?

This is a common question that climate scientists get asked. The sun provides the primary source of energy driving Earth’s climate system, and changes in the sun’s energy output have played a role in past climate changes. However, as shown in Figure 1 (below), direct satellite measurements of the Sun’s energy reaching Earth since the .. Read More

Regions of light blue color show the "wavy" counter-clockwise path of the jet stream for January 6, 2014. The map in white near the bottom center shows the outline of the U.S. Click image for larger view.

What is a polar vortex?

A polar vortex is a system of upper-level winds that circle around one of the poles.  Such circumpolar wind systems exist most of the time at both the North and South Poles, but they can change in strength depending on season and also special atmospheric conditions.  They surround and help to define the coldest regions .. Read More

Typhoon Haiyan (NASA photo)

What is the difference between a typhoon and a hurricane?

Question: What is the difference between a typhoon and a hurricane?  Will they be affected differently by climate change? Jonathan Comstock, research support specialist in the Department of Horticulture, replies: ‘Typhoon’ and ‘hurricane’ are regional names for the same kind of storm.  They are both special names given to tropical cyclones (large regional storm systems .. Read More

Click graph for larger view.

Is the pace of climate change slowing down?

Question: The pace of increase in surface air temperatures appears to have slowed slightly in past 15 years or so. What does this mean about climate change? Is it slowing down? David Wolfe, Faculty Fellow and Chair of the Climate Change Focus Group, Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and Professor, Department of Horticulture replies: .. Read More

Mike Hoffmann

Climate change and fireflies?

Question: I have only lived in New York City for a few years, but this is the first time I have personally noticed fireflies in the city. I wondered if this could be linked to climate change and if these magical bugs are coming out in greater numbers because of warmer weather? Michael Hoffmann, entomologist .. Read More

burning brush

Is it OK to burn brush?

Question: Our property is surrounded by trees and we often get downed limbs that we collect and burn. I’ve heard that this isn’t the best thing to do, because it contributes to climate change? Can you explain why? Answer: Many New Yorkers, especially in rural areas, have been in the habit of burning brush that .. Read More

flooded garden

How is climate change affecting my garden?

Question: I’m an avid gardener. I’ve noticed the last few summers we seem to get extremely hard rains that wash off a lot of the topsoil and compact the soil. And then the soil seems to get so dry, as we don’t have the more frequent, light soaking rains. Is this related to climate change, .. Read More


How can local governments respond to climate change?

Question: I serve on our town board. How can I help our town prepare for climate change, and contribute to solutions? Great Question! Climate change is already affecting our communities in the Northeast, and will continue to do so into the future, from decreased snow cover affecting snow and ice removal budgets, to impacts on .. Read More