In this image taken from video, lobsterman, Tim Pettis, works with his traps on the waterfront Thursday, June 1, 2017, in Portland. Pettis said that he has seen the effects of climate change in the warming waters he works in and wishes President Donald Trump could feel the same. His comments came on the same day Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement. (AP Photo/Robert Bukaty)

Though people tend to talk most about climate change during a heat wave or in the wake of a terrible storm, the reality is that it’s a slow, subtle shift that’s scarcely noticeable except over the long haul.

But scientists say that Maine is very much feeling its impact.

From a rise in the number of ticks to the decline in the number of northern shrimp offshore, the state is seeing the consequences of an increase in the average annual temperature by 3 degrees since 1895.

The frequency of extreme weather events, from ice storms to torrential rains, has been increasing and will likely to become even more common as the world heats up further, scientists warn.

The accompanying rise in ocean levels, caused by melting glaciers, means that salt marshes are in trouble, flood zones are growing and agricultural zones shifting.

And some say it will get worse if the country fails to take action on climate change.


“Maine is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, where our environment and economy are so closely linked,” said Lisa Pohlmann, the Natural Resources Council of Maine’s executive director.

“Rising sea levels will flood our coastal towns, smog from upwind states will harm the lives of those with asthma, fast-warming waters in the Gulf of Maine will put commercial fisheries at risk, and warming weather threatens vital elements of our economy, like skiing, maple syrup production and ocean fisheries,” she said in a written statement.

A 2015 study by the Climate Change Institute and Maine Sea Grant at the University of Maine that updated an earlier state report on the issue lays out a troubling scenario for a state that depends heavily on tourism, recreation, logging, farming and fishing — all of which are likely to feel the pinch if scientific projections of what’s to come prove prescient.

Already, though, historical data shows warming trends.

For instance, information from the U.S. Climate Divisional Dataset cited by the University of Maine study shows the state’s warm weather season is two weeks longer now than it was a century ago. It’s 34 weeks now, records indicate, compared to 32 in the two decades leading up to World War I.

By mid-century, the study projects the warm weather season, when temperatures are always above freezing, will last 36 weeks.


No doubt many Mainers who can easily recall shivering through a dark and frigid January might hail the change, but the consequences are more widespread than just the need to expand summer wardrobes, experts say.

One of them is that bugs love warmer weather, so the higher temperatures have contributed to escalating numbers of ticks and mosquitoes, both of which often carry diseases that afflict people.

Lyme disease, which is spread by deer ticks, is among the bad news for people and wildlife. Ticks, specifically winter ticks, are sometimes blamed for the deaths of stressed-out moose, whose blood and strength are simply sapped by large numbers of the critters.

But lots of living things could be in trouble, according to a 2014 report by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences and Maine Beginning with Habitat Climate Change Working Group.

Two-thirds of the state’s animals and plants are at least moderately vulnerable to the changing climate, with 339 species specifically mentioned. High on the list? Lichen and fungi.

Freshwater fish, including brook and lake trout, could also be in trouble from warming waters, experts say.


Out in the Gulf of Maine, things may be even more dire.

One of the fastest-warming spots on the planet, the gulf is the center of a fishing industry that has depended on the area’s largess for centuries.

“Maine’s economy and way of life depend on healthy marine waters. Climate change influences, such as increasingly acidic seawater and mud flats, stress marine organisms in ways we still don’t completely understand,” Ivy Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper for the Friends of Casco Bay, said in a prepared statement.

There’s some concern that rising water temperatures could harm the state’s most recognizable symbol: lobsters.

A study in the January issue of The Lobster Newsletter said that “climate-induced change to the species’ surrounding ecosystem is inevitable.”

But it isn’t clear whether it will help or hurt lobsters, which have been shifting northward for years. One study cited in the issue said warmer temperatures on the seafloor may be favorable while another found lobster larvae “may be uniquely susceptible” to the changes in sea surface pH and higher temperatures.


What is clear, though, is that fishing grounds are changing as cold water-loving species move north or further off the coast while species that prefer warmer temperatures, from butterfish to blue crabs, have begun to show up in ever greater numbers, according to the 2015 study.

Maine’s interior is also feeling the heat.

The 2015 study said that changing weather patterns are also “one of the main factors affecting annual yield of maple syrup through its effects on sap flow and/or sugar concentrations.” The optimal time to tap maples keeps moving earlier in the year, it found, and may advance by as much as three weeks by 2050.

It also warned that if the pace keeps up, by 2050 Lewiston will see an average of 15 days each summer when the heat index rises to 95 degrees or more instead of the five days it sees now.

But it’s not just that summers are getting hotter. It’s also that winters are, too.

Winter recreational sports, from skiing to snowmobiling, may take a hit as the state deals with more ice storms and generally sees less snow. It’s a concern that businesses have been coping with for years now.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.