Thursday February 7, 2013

BELLOWS FALLS -- Vermont is the only New England state that does not touch the ocean. But that doesn’t mean it is unaffected by global climate change.

That is what atmospheric scientist Dr. Alan K. Betts wants to convey to his audience at the Rockingham Free Public Library today when he explains how the changing climate modifies the state’s water cycle and how to achieve an adaptable and resilient future.

"Connecting the Drops: Water and Vermont’s Changing Climate," is set to begin at 7 p.m. and is presented by the library, the Ascutney Mountain Audubon Society and the Nature Museum at Grafton. The event is free and open to the public.

Betts told the Reformer he will speak about the climate of Vermont over the past 20 to 40 years and how that pertains to water processes. He said the state’s winters are getting warmer and spring weather is coming earlier and earlier.

"I’ll talk about climate change, but mostly in a Vermont context," he said. "I enjoy these talks."

Betts, who serves as a commentator for Vermont Public Radio and writes a column for the environment page of the Rutland Herald and the Times Argus, wants to inform his audience of some of the alarming statistics he has come across in his work as an independent scientist.

He said the growing season between frosts begins four days earlier every decade and lakes have remained frozen about seven fewer days each decade for the past 40 years.


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He also said the increasingly warm climate is causing the Arctic ice caps to melt.

Betts, who lives in Pittsford, cited Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 as evidence for climate change. That was the same year he authored an article called "Climate Change in Vermont" for the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, according to a statement released by the library.

According to his personal website, Betts earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in natural sciences from the University of Cambridge (England) and got his doctorate in meteorology from Imperial College, University of London in 1970.

Betts said he have given more than 100 talks in Vermont in the past five years and has addressed every audience imaginable, from kindergartners to high schoolers to the state Legislature. He said he is comfortable speaking in any forum because "I adapt what I’m saying to my audience."

Ed Graves, the library’s programming librarian, said today’s event should intrigue anyone who is even slightly interested in climatology.

"We’re thrilled to host it," he said, adding that the library’s intimate setting is perfect for the event. "We hope there will be a lot of people there."

Carrie King, the director of events for the Nature Museum at Grafton, said she first contacted Betts toward the end of 2012 and was interested in booking him for his ability to relate his expertise to laymen.

"I look at him as someone who is very accessible. He is a scientist but you don’t have to be a scientist to understand him," she said. "The concept is to be a guiding light (for people)."

King said she hopes the event is empowering and heightens public awareness. She said the more people that are educated on climate change, the better off society will be.

Betts said learning about climate change and water cycles is vital and he doesn’t at all fret about skeptics who insist climate change either does not exist or isn’t caused by humans. He said he just lays out his facts and "they usually have no answer."

"Some are extraordinarily blind," he said. "It’s difficult for people to understand all the details."

Call the library at 802-463-4270 with any questions or visit rockinghamlibrary.org. Information about other upcoming events can be found on The Nature Museum at Grafton’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/naturemuseumatgrafton) and on its website (www.nature-museum.org).

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.