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Change in the Growing Season

As the planet warms from the burning of fossil fuels and the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the length of the growing season will continue to be affected. Nationally, the growing season is already about 15 days longer than at the beginning of the 20th century. Western states have seen the greatest changes since that time.

Arizona, California, Nevada, and Oregon now have growing seasons that are more than a month longer than they were a century ago. In turn, this will influence when, where, and what types of food crops are planted and harvested – meaning agricultural practices will have to adapt – and impacting the types of produce available at your local supermarket.

Climate change may also play a role in altering the annual display of the fall foliage season, which is now underway in much of the country. Many individual elements influence the fall colors at a local level, and some of those are affected directly by climate change. Researchers are looking at these influences, but on a limited number of tree species and in limited geographic areas.

Longer and hotter summers, changes in annual precipitation, increased humidity, and changes in insect populations are all expected as the planet warms. Additionally, the types of trees in a particular area may gradually change as species migrate north, depending on levels of greenhouse gas emissions and warming. The vibrant maple, beech, and birch trees that are common as far south as West Virginia may retreat dramatically north, becoming limited to the cooler climates of northern New England and northern New York State.