Northeastern U.S. Can Expect Southern-Style Summers if Fossil Fuel-Use Continues as Primary Energy Source

DATE: Oct. 4, 2006
CONTACT: John Davis,
(806) 742-2136

LUBBOCK – The Northeast can expect hotter summers and shorter winters over the coming century if the nation continues to rely on fossil fuels for energy, according to a recent study by a Texas Tech University researcher.

Katharine Hayhoe, a research associate professor in the Department of Geosciences at TTU, said summer temperatures in the Northeast could be 6.5 to 13.5 degrees Fahrenheit hotter if use of fossil fuels continues to grow. However, climate models show that the area could warm only 3 to 6.5 degrees if the world shifts to alternative energy in coming decades.

Hayhoe led a team of 14 scientists for the year-long climate change study. The research focused on nine states that ranged from Maine to New Jersey and across to Pennsylvania. The project was organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“We wanted to find out what future climate might look like in the Northeast states if we kept on using fossil fuels compared to if we shifted to alternative fuels,” Hayhoe said. “There is an enormous difference in the types of impacts we can expect, from loss of winter snowpack and dramatic shifts in the timing of Northeast seasons, to more frequent extreme heat waves and droughts in summer. In general, the impacts we can expect in a higher fossil fuel-intensive future are approximately twice those likely in a lower-emissions future.”

Hayhoe said a summer in the metropolitan New York City area could be 6 to 14 degrees hotter by 2085 because of carbon dioxide emissions, making it feel like a summer in coastal Georgia. However, alternative energy use might make a New York City summer only 3 to 7 degrees warmer, feeling more like Virginia Beach does today.

“Our climate future is in our hands,” she said. “The choices we make today and in the next few decades will determine the quality of our children’s and our grandchildren’s lives.”

For more information, visit


CONTACT: Katharine Hayhoe, research associate professor, Department of Geosciences, (806) 742-0015,