Global warming, however slight the temperature difference, is swaying the area's ecosystem out of its natural order.
Local college Professors Mel Zimmerman of Lycoming College and Rob Colley of Pennsylvania College of Technology said climate change is affecting plants, animals and their environment here.
Conducted three years ago by the Union of Concerned Scientists and collaborators, the Confronting Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast study led to an October 2008 report that localized global warming issues for Pennsylvania, Zimmerman said.
Dr. Mel Zimmerman, Lycoming College professor of biology and director the Clean Water Institute, shows off some of the “real time” data from measurements taken in the Susquehanna River in Milton.
Citing the report for a variety of topics from farming to forestation, Zimmerman said the state's average temperature has risen by about one-half degree the past 50 years.
Noticeable environmental shifts already have occurred and could get more dramatic.
The degree of warming the scientists expect over the next few decades is another 2 1/2 degrees statewide.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
By striving to eliminate fossil fuel use, including coal, oil and natural gas, Pennsylvania College of Technology Professor Rob Colley said the local carbon footprint can be cut.
Pennsylvania ranks third highest in states across the country for fossil fuels emissions, according to Lycoming College professor Mel Zimmerman.
Ways the Earth's environment can be saved include:
Buying local. Colley recommends buying food at area markets raised by local farmers. He said the average distance food travels from the farm to a plate is more than 1,500 miles.
Use a bus or other forms of public transportation.
Live near work, making bicycling to the job possible.
Turn off appliances when they're not being used.
Explore alternative energy applications, including solar and wind power.
"It affects a lot of different things," Zimmerman said of local global warming.
Residents can expect 90-plus degrees more frequently, according to Zimmerman.
Farmers trying to make a profit are
crunched by decreased dairy and corn production.
The heat stress causes cows to produce less milk and corn stalks to wilt and die prematurely, Zimmerman said.
Heat stress in cattle already costs the state's farmers more than $50 million annually.
Temperatures above 90 degrees are devastating to corn, causing poor ear fill, reduced yield and lower food quality.
As visible as global warming can be to food and beverage shoppers, it's just as destructive to forests often hidden from view.
Ticks and mosquitoes are becoming more prevalent, which Zimmerman said makes the likelihood of Lyme Disease and West Nile virus spread more prevalent.
Climate change is making for increased levels of airborne pollens, affecting allergies in some areas.
Higher temperatures can prolong the allergy season, while elevated carbon dioxide levels accelerate the productivity of key pollen-allergen sources.
Bird species are migrating from south to north in search of suitable habitat, sometimes pushing native aviary species out.
Trout can't tolerate warm water, which Zimmerman said can cause them to swim away or die.
Above the Earth, Colley said atmospheric holes are making it too easy for the climate to continually change.
The atmosphere is meant to act as a protective layer and when that protection is dismantled, Colley said excessive greenhouse gasses can heat up the environment below.
Of the greenhouse gasses, Colley said carbon dioxide is of particular concern.
He said the best way to reduce the destruction is to avoid consuming fossil fuels, which burn the atmosphere's natural essence.
Taking into account the last 650,000 years of world history, Colley said atmospheric carbon dioxide combustion is at a record high.
From a worldwide industrial revolution in the 1700s, he said it progressively got worse.
In Williamsport and the surrounding area, Colley said there are several ways to nurture the atmosphere and be environmentally friendly, mostly by avoiding fossil fuel use.
With several other area universities, Zimmerman said he and his college contributes to the Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies.
Together, Zimmerman said the group continually is monitoring river temperature and chemistry on a constant basis.
He said findings from the study are expected to be released in October.
The presence of a greenhouse gas - nitrogen oxide - is among the airborne elements state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Dan Spadoni said his agency analyzes at a Montoursville area collection station.
Nitrogen oxide levels are consistently "good," according to Spadoni.
Of six monitoring levels, with "hazardous" considered the worst, Spadoni's "good" evaluation is considered the best.
Colley's carbon dioxide concerns are measured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
From a low of 190 parts per million in cold glacial times, Colley said the Earth's carbon dioxide levels are measured at a national observatory in Hawaii, where the reading is 391 ppm and rising.
There is a direct correlation between carbon dioxide and temperature increases, according to Colley.
"Currently, temperatures are warmer than they've been in the past 500 years," he said.
Even warming elsewhere can have an affect here.
Among factors Colley said contribute to hurricanes are warmer ocean surface temperatures.
When the hurricane winds swirl northward and cause destructive storms here, it can take years to pick up the pieces.
Distribution of government grant money is sometimes necessary to repair damages in mid-Atlantic states, including Pennsylvania.
When it gets warmer here, invasive species may make themselves welcome.
As close as the Susquehanna wetlands just off the Faxon exit, Colley said purple loosestrife can be found growing.
He said it tends to crowd-out native plants, which can attract and introduce foreign insects and other species.
In the forests, Zimmerman said a bug known as the woolly adelgid is sucking sap and killing hemlocks, the official state tree.
Hemlocks are projected to lose up to two-thirds of their habitat.
"That could really change our forest scheme if we lose hemlocks in particular," Zimmerman said.