2016-2017 Academic Year

News in July 2017

More than 60 urban high school students in New Jersey participated in the 9th annual 4-H Summer Science Program at Rutgers New Brunswick. RCI affiliate Janice McDonnell is the co-founder of 4-H STEM, which encourages young people to gain a better understanding of STEM opportunities through hands on activities.

RCI affiliate Robert Kopp, co-author of a recent study in the journal Science, discusses the implications of his research on economic inequality in the United States at KTSA.com. The areas that are the poorest in the US, according to his research, will suffer the impacts of climate change the hardest. Kopp says that economic opportunity will likely shift from the deep south towards the north and west.

RCI affiliate Alan Robock is joining forces with Brian Toon from the University of Colorado Boulder to study the climatic impact of nuclear conflicts with a $3 million grant from the Open Philanthropy Project. Discussions of nuclear winter began in 1980, when simple models showed that nuclear explosions could burn enough area to loft significant amounts of soot into the stratosphere. Similar to volcanic eruptions, this would lead to a dramatic decrease in global surface temperatures. The research team aims to use state of the art models to determine how much material would burn in a nuclear strike, how much of this would be lofted into the stratosphere, how the climate would respond, and how this would affect human society.

RCI affiliate Ben Horton was featured in an article in the Atlantic about using sedimentary records in southeast Asia to study past tsunamis. Using layers of bat feces and sand, Ben Horton’s research was able to identify 11 prehistoric tsunamis. Detecting prehistoric tsunamis in this cave includes finding gaps in the layers of bat feces. Due to the topography of the cave and the abundance of bats, the gaps in feces indicates when water rushed in, which could only occur through tsunamis. During a single century around 1300 BC, there were four tsunamis.


The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has released their report titled Acquisition and Operation of Polar Icebreakers: Fulfilling the Nation’s Needs, which develops a cost estimate for maintaining the US fleet of heavy and medium icebreakers. According to a press release, the US has failed to make investments in icebreaker technology, which has become more critical given strong warming and other environmental changes occurring in the Arctic and Antarctic.


RCI affiliate Robert Kopp was interviewed by TheRealNews.com about the calving of a massive iceberg on the Larsen C ice shelf. Kopp could not link the calving directly to climate change but stated that it is indicative of the growing vulnerability of ice shelves. Additionally, the iceberg calving will not lead to sea level rise because ice shelves sit on top of water, as opposed to ice sheets that sit on the continent. The concern in the future is the possibility of the collapse of ice sheets that rely on ice shelves for stability.

An iceberg the size of the state of Delaware has broken off the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica, as reported by the New York Times. A rift between the ice shelf and the iceberg has been forming for years, finally growing enough to separate the two this past week. While some climate scientists suggest climate change and warming temperatures had a role, natural variability plays a large role in this region. Icebergs have been breaking off of ice shelfs for as long as Antarctica has had ice. However, as warming continues, the calving of these icebergs may become more frequent.


New research bolsters the theory that Arctic warming can cause cold outbreaks during the winter over North America, as reported in  the Washington Post.  RCI affiliate Jennifer Francis, who did not participate in the research, says the study adds to the growing evidence that there are many indirect effects to the melting of the Arctic.


The Rutgers Graduate Program in Atmospheric Science (GPAS) held a symposium to commemorate its 10th anniversary this past May (2017). The symposium featured a keynote address by atmospheric chemist Arlene Fiore of Columbia University as well as talks by GPAS alumni Paul Loikith and Ben Kravitz. RCI affiliate Benjamin Lintner is the director of the GPAS. Since 2008, the program has graduated 17 doctoral students and five students at the master’s level.



Congratulations to RCI affiliate Dan Van Abs, Jr. who received the 2017 Sustainable Raritan Leadership Award for his long history of Raritan River protection during his career in both academia, the public and non-profit sectors.  

RCI affiliate Robert Kopp is a co-author of an article in Science magazine on calculating the economic damage from climate change. The authors estimated the economic value of damage of projected climate change across. multiple U.S. sectors finding that damage increases quadratically in global mean temperature, costing human society about 1.2% of GDP per 1 degree Celsius increase on average. Notably, risk is distributed unequally, with a large transfer of value north and west. Dividing the US into a number of regions hasn’t been done before, according to Kopp in the NY Times. This method of exploring the issue highlights the story of an enormous transfer of wealth between states.

RCI affiliate Robert Kopp comments in the  Washington Post  regarding recent sea-level rise research, in regard to increased confidence in estimates of sea level rise, including the increasing rate of rise.

RCI affiliates Lisa Auermuller and Ben Horton appeared on New York’s  Fox 5 News to talk about back bay flooding in and around the NYC area. Backbays are between the barrier island and an inland area, according to Lisa Auermuller. Ben Horton also discusses the complications involved in adapting to flooding and developing further solutions to the problem.

RCI affiliate Alan Robock is mentioned in a Forbes article about seeding clouds to alter the radiative balance of the earth in order to counteract global warming and its numerous negative impacts. However, risks such as ozone depletion, continued ocean acidification, and disruption to monsoons may be bad enough to warrant not taking such measures.

RCI affiliate Bob Kopp is quoted in Inside Climate News on the relevance of climate change to the ongoing heat wave in the southwestern US.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has released a publication titled “An Assessment of ARPA-E”. The ARPA-E is the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which has funded research into tackling US energy issues and engineering.

 The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has published “Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative”. This publication focuses on the need to enhance resilience to natural disasters  through proactive approaches that can help to reduce the impacts of disasters on the nation.