Birkel speaks with BDN about climate change, extreme storms

The Bangor Daily News interviewed Sean Birkel, state climatologist and  research assistant professor at the University of Maine Climate Change Institute, for an article about how climate change is causing more extreme storms in the state. Since 2017, there have been three extreme storms in Maine, all resulting in hours of rainfall, high wind speeds, fallen trees and power outages, according to the article. Birkel said these storms are the result of climate change, and based on climate projections, Maine might experience more frequent and extreme storms in the future. The loss of Arctic sea ice and warming ocean temperatures is fueling extreme storms in Maine, the article states. “There’s nearly 50 percent less sea ice cover in the Arctic basin now than there was 20 years ago,” Birkel said. “The loss of Arctic sea ice has changed the circulation pattern of large-scale winds.” The warming oceans in the Northeast also mean there’s more available moisture. As a result of these two factors, Maine has seen warmer fall temperatures and a tendency for more storms, the BDN reported. “Changing large-scale circulation [of wind] and warmer ocean water provides more fuel for an intense storm,” Birkel said. “The changes that have taken place support the hypothesis that intense storms could be increasing in frequency in fall.” Birkel and his team are working on detailed statistical analyses of storms to determine if and how the frequency has changed.