Climate Change

Derby Wharf During Hurricane Sandy
Derby Wharf During Hurricane Sandy

Daniel Sullivan

"I believe climate change is fundamentally the greatest threat to the integrity of our national parks that we have ever experienced. The current science confirms the planet is warming and the effects are here and now." -Jonathan Jarvis, Director, National Park Service

Climate Change is Real - and Damaging Our Parks
Climate change presents significant risks to our nation's national parks, including Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Although climate change was once believed to be a future problem, there is now unequivocal scientific evidence that our planet's climate system is warm­ing. While many people understand that human emissions of greenhouse gases have significantly contributed to recent observed climate changes, fewer are aware of the specific impacts these changes will bring.

Examples of Direct Impacts to Salem Maritime National Historic Site

  • Derby Wharf & Lighthouse: Acellerated erosion and damage to the walking trail, wharf foundation and buried historic resources due to flood and storm surge from rising sea levels and increasingly powerful storms.
  • Friendship of Salem: Higher temperatures and increased precipitation are causing the wooden hull of Friendship of Salem to absorb more moisture, increasing the rate of wood decay, raising maintenence costs, and shortening material lifespans.
  • Custom House: The potential of increased flooding has prompted park staff to move offices, storage, sensitive collections from basement areas.
  • Derby House: Higher summer temperatures increase evaporation from the building's brick exterior, causing drying, shrinkage and increased salt absorbsion. Increased moisture in winter causes deeper water penetration, causing expansion and an increased mold/mildew risk. These fluxuations damage the building and raise cyclic maintenence costs.
  • Hawkes House: Higher energy and air conditioning costs because of the 200% increase in the number of 90°F or higher days each summer.

A Warmer, Wetter Massachusetts
Average yearly temperatures have risen 0.5°F per decade since 1970, with winter temperatures rising 1.3°F. Northeastern cities like Salem are currently experiencing about five days per year over 90°F, twice as many as half a century ago. Sea-surface temperatures in the U.S. Northeast have risen by 1°F since 1900 and by 2100 sea surface temperatures are likely to be 4-5°F or 6-8°F higher. Sea levels in Massachusetts have also risen 10 inches over the past 100 years.

Greenhouse Gases Effects

For all of human history until about 150 years ago, our atmosphere contained 275 parts per million (ppm) of CO2. Globally, increasing amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, now at their highest levels in 650,000 years, are elevating temperatures worldwide. Currently our atmosphere is registering 390 ppm of CO2 and 350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments are now saying is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.Watch and learn how CO2 causes warming in 90 seconds.

Our Response to Climate Change in the Park

  • Creating an action plan to reduce annual emissions, with the goal of 5% reduction compared to 2008 levels.
  • Calculating and publicizing greenhouse gas emissions from park operations.
  • Partnering with local and state organizations like Salem Sound Coastwatch to increase awareness of climate change issues via public education programs
  • Incorporating a discussion of climate change in the park during ranger-guided tours, exhibits and lectures.
  • Achieving certification as an official "Climate Friendly [National] Park"
Get Involved and Learn More

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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160 Derby Street
Salem, MA 01970


(978) 740-1650

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