A Comprehensive Climate Study Conducted by Leading Researchers at Paul Smith’s College Found the Adirondacks Warmed Faster than the Global Average

Sep 21, 2022 | Featured

Paul Smith’s, NY (September 21, 2022) A groundbreaking study conducted by Paul Smith’s College faculty, researchers, and students found that during the last century the Adirondacks warmed faster than the global average and that local animals, plants, and lakes are feeling the effects of such changes.

The study entitled, “Once and future changes in climate and phenology within the Adirondack uplands” was authored by Dr. Curt Stager, Professor of Natural Sciences; Dr. Brendan Wiltse, Senior Research Scientist at Paul Smith’s Adirondack Watershed Institute; and student Skylar Murphy, and published in the journal PLOS Climate. A copy of the report can be found here.

Examining data from 1909 to 2020 the researchers found that the Adirondacks warmed by 1.7°C. The Adirondack region’s mean temperature increased 0.14°C per decade over that timeperiod, exceeding the global warming rate of 0.09°C. The data also showed that winter ice on the lakes in the region melts earlier than before, the surface Lower St. Regis Lake has warmed significantly, and the Adirondack winters are becoming shorter and milder as summers become longer and warmer. In addition, the study found that the length of Adirondack winters will continue to shorten and become milder, and could eventually lose snow and ice altogether.

“Shorter, milder winters of the future will also affect the cultural ecologysense of identity, sense of place, recreational traditions, and economy—of Adirondack communities. Where we live helps define who we are, said Dr. Curt Stager, Professor of Natural Sciences and lead author of the study. And winter is the season that best defines the Adirondacks. Our Winter Olympic heritage, the annual Winter Carnival in Saranac Lake, the snowmobiling mecca of Old Forgeall are at risk of fading away as winter continues to wane.

Climate change is one of the top threats to the Adirondack Park. Our work documents significant environmental change that has occurred in the region and offers a glimpse into the future of a warmer park—one where the ecological communities and cultural experiences will be different,” said Dr. Brendan Wiltse, Senior Research Scientist at Paul Smith’s Adirondack Watershed Institute and co-author of the study. This study is also a wonderful reflection of the type of learning experience that exists at Paul Smiths College, where hundreds of students in Dr. Stagers classes contributed to this long-term study.

The study recorded three decades of responses of animals and plants on or near the Paul Smith’s College campus to temperature variations from year to year, known as phenologyand found that future warming will make local birds, insects, and flowers shift their behaviors earlier in spring. This part of the study began as an annual nature journal in 1990. Since then,it has evolved into a formal Phenology Trail that is monitored annually with help from students in his science classes.

The study was funded by the Draper-Lussi Endowed Chair in Lake Ecology and Paleoecology, which is managed for JCS by Paul Smith’s College (www.paulsmiths.edu). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


At Paul Smith’s College, it’s about the experience. As the only four-year institution of higher education located in the Adirondack Park in upstate New York, Paul Smith’s provides real-world, hands-on learning in fields such as business and hospitality, culinary management, forestry, environmental sciences and natural resources. We are able to draw on industries and resources available in our own backyard while preparing students for successful careers anywhere. Our community of resourceful, enterprising, supportive and adventurous individuals collectively provide experiential education, student support in the classroom and beyond, and meaningful opportunities for our alumni. We pride ourselves on research and advocacy on issues that improve our planet and the lives of the people who inhabit it. Learn more at paulsmiths.edu »

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