2016-2017 Academic Year

News in March 2017

RCI affiliate Jennifer Francis offered a few words on the consequences of the Trump administration’s roll back of the Clean Power Plan, an Obama era policy, in an article in the New Republic. The executive order that dismantled the plan will make reducing emissions over the next decade to meet our targets difficult if not impossible. Francis notes that “we are already struggling to meet this agreement,” while calling the move a “step back in time.”


RCI affiliate Dan Van Abs discusses how New Jersey’s infrastructure is failing streams when it comes to stormwater runoff in an NJ Spotlight article. Land use changes have forever altered the way that stormwater runs off, and Van Abs calls for taking steps to better manage stormwater and come to terms with the current situation.Carbon dioxide levels measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Observatory reached 405.1 parts per million (ppm) in 2016. These findings show atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are not only reaching record levels, but the concentration of the greenhouse gas is accelerating faster than ever in the observatory’s 59 year record. For the fifth consecutive year, CO2 concentration rose by more than 2 parts per million, which is unprecedented. Additionally, at least 40 other sites within NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network are observing a rapid acceleration in CO2 levels, with implications for the continued increase in temperatures globally.


Communities face many challenges in developing their own approach to resilience measures such as limited resources, time, and staff, a lack of political will, a lack of data availability, and a limited understanding of the hazards they face. The recently published “Measures of Community Resilience for Local Decision Makers” from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine aims to make decisions at the local level easier. The publication can be downloaded for free here.


A new technical report by the United States Global Change Research Program has been released detailing the current state of science relating to climate change and its impacts, focusing on the United States.


A new study builds upon the research of RCI affiliate Jennifer Francis linking Arctic climate to the rest of the global climate system. The study published in Science Advances suggests a link between smog in Chinese cities and Arctic climate. Melting Arctic sea ice and increasing snow across Siberia leads to a strengthened Siberian high pressure system, allowing for air to stagnate in east Asia. Using an index that accounts for the intensity of westerly winds, researchers showed a link between stagnation and snow/ice changes in the Arctic. The study emphasizes the interconnectedness of the world's climate system.


Proposed federal budget cuts may have a direct effect on the New Jersey Weather & Climate Network, according to RCI affiliate and State Climatologist Dave Robinson in a nj.com article.  Because all of Robinson’s funding comes from NOAA through the National Weather Service, he remarked that "the potential is there to cripple my global snow research and a major component of my state climate program." Robinson calls it "the premier such database in the world" as it is the "longest continuous satellite-derived climate data record available.”


The latest US. Drought Monitor for report for New Jersey shows 43% of the state, mostly in the south and on the coast is now free of drought. Severe drought areas are down to 6% of the state. RCI director Anthony Broccoli stated in a NJ 101.5 interview that while this is good news, it will only take one prolonged dry spell to move back into drought conditions. Water demand is currently down and will only increase in the upcoming months, possibly putting stress on NJ water reserves if a dry spell occurs again.


A steady northern transport of warm air to the north pole has led to a new record-low maximum of Arctic sea ice for the third year in a row, according to the NSIDC. Additionally, Antarctic sea ice has also set a record low for its annual summer minimum, a change from growing ice here in recent years. Persistent warmth is likely responsible for both of these records.


The New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium has provided funding for the research endeavors of four Rutgers faculty, including RCI affiliates Daphne Munroe and Olaf Jensen, and Rutgers faculty Brooke Maslo and Kenneth Able. NJ Sea Grant programs are designed to “resolve coastal issues, develop marine technology, formulate science-based policy, and improve science literacy among its citizens."


Congratulations to RCI affiliate Laura Schneider on being named a Fulbright Research US Scholar for Colombia. Laura’s project is titled Mapping the spatial configuration of landscapes in the Orinoquia region of Colombia and modeling potential landscape change in an era of post-conflict.


Congratulations to RCI affiliate and assistant professor Malin L. Pinsky, the principal investigator of a NOAA award of $86,036 for the project Projecting and Communicating Changes in North American Species Distributions.


The NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) unveiled the NJ Fostering Regional Adaptation through Municipal Economic Scenarios (FRAMES) program during a public engagement session in February 2016.  This is a three year project to plan for possible sea-level rise through 2100 funded by a NOAA grant worth $898,656. Partners on the project include the NJDEP, Rutgers University, and Louis Berger and Associations.  RCI affiliate Lisa Auermiller  and RCI Associate Director Marjorie Kaplan are the Rutgers Co-PIs.  The project focuses on 15 New Jersey shore towns and developing ways to protect community assets.


Air pollutants are known to increase the incidence of lung disease, but a new study co-authored by RCI affiliate Howard Kipen integrates the latest science into a general framework for interpreting the adversity of the human health effects of air pollution. The report notes a link between air pollutants and an increase in cases of heart disease. According to the findings, more cases of heart disease are linked to air pollution than lung disease. In addition to lung disease and heart disease, type 2 diabetes has been linked to increased exposure of air pollutants.A stretch of unseasonably warm weather has paved the way for an early allergy season, according to RCI affiliate Dr. Leonard Bielory in a NJ 101.5 interview. The allergy season in New Jersey typically starts around March 15th, but with a head start on warm weather, the trees are even more primed to release pollen when consistent warm weather comes.


Unseasonably warm weather in late February is an ominous sign for tree farmers. An early bloom puts farmers on edge, because hard freezes often occur into April. According to RCI affiliate Dave Robinson in a NJ 101.5 interview, early blooming trees are far more vulnerable to cold snaps in late March and April. Given a pattern with above normal temperatures followed by below normal temperatures, it is possible that fruit trees across New Jersey will bloom early, only to succumb to a hard freeze later in the season.


The Rutgers Raritan River Consortium awarded five mini grants to Rutgers faculty members to support research on the Raritan river, basin, and bay. Grants were received by RCI affiliates Olaf Jensen and Josh Kohut of the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences. The grants amount to $7,500 each. The research supports the Rutgers' Sustainable Raritan River Initiative, to help the Raritan river system meet the goals of the Clean Water Act as well as restoring the river running through Rutgers University. More information can be found here.

The EPA released an updated State and Local guide to U.S. EPA Climate and Energy Program Resources. Click here to view the document.