2017-2018 Academic Year

News in November 2017

See RCI Affiliate Professor Åsa K Rennermalm in Greenland discussing her research on how the Greenland Ice Sheet is melting and how fast the meltwater reaches the ocean and affects sea levels. Learn more about Professor Rennermalm’s work here and here.

 Professor Rennermalm’s graduate student Rohi Muthyala studies how melting water cuts channels in the ice sheet and how those channels and the constant thawing and refreezing of the ice sheet’s surface affect the flow of water at the mouth of a river.

Read more about Rohi Muthyala’s work here.

Professor Rennermalm’s student Sasha Leidman is studying supraglacial streams of meltwater that form on the surface of the Greenland ice sheet and become more pervasive as the climate warms to understand how the streams absorb sunlight and the degree to which that can contribute to increased melting of the ice sheet.

Read more about Sasha Leidman here.


The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reminds us of the following resources for disaster preparation and recovery: Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative;  Healthy, Resilient, and Sustainable Communities After Disasters: Strategies, Opportunities, and Planning for Recovery; Emergency Alert and Warning Systems: Current Knowledge and Future Research Directions; Enhancing the Resilience of the Nation's Electricity System.

RCI affiliate Alan Robock discusses the global climate implications of the ongoing eruption of Mt. Agung in Bali, Indonesia in Mashable, Reuters, and Scientific American. The last eruption of Mt. Agung occurred in 1963, which was larger than the ongoing eruption and led to a slight reduction in global temperatures due to the reflection of sunlight from sulfur aerosols.

Read about Rutgers Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience Program (C2R2), a new program aimed at working to help coastal communities and ecosystems become more resilient to the effects of a changing climate. RCI affiliate Robert Kopp is the co-director of C2R2, which secured funding as part of the National Science Foundation Research Traineeship program.

The US Global Change Research Program, a consortium of 13 federal agencies, released  its Climate Science Special Report: National Climate Assessment, Volume I, RCI affiliate Robert Kopp is a co-author on chapters 12 (Sea Level Rise) and 15 (Potential Surprises: Compound Extremes and Tipping Elements).

Professor  Kopp, is interviewed by the Star Ledger and Rutgers Today on his involvement in this report. Kopp also discusses more about the chapter on “Potential Surprises” with the Philly Inquirer. The ‘Potential Surprises’ chapter examines compound extremes of the climate system, which together will have far reaching effects that add up to more than the sum of their parts. Kopp notes the implications of the new NCA for New Jersey. For example, Atlantic City has seen an almost 6-fold increase in the number of 'nuisance' tidal floods between 1950 and 2013, rising from about four per year to about 24 per year.

According to Professor Kopp, quoted in the Washington Post,  this is “basically  the most comprehensive climate science report in the world right now”   Kopp and several of his co-authors highlight several key points in a NY Times Op-Ed including the report’s affirmation that the climate is changing and humans are primarily responsible strengthened by investments in monitoring and modeling; the last three years have been successively the warmest based on observational records and 16 of the last 17 years have been among the 17 warmest on record; global sea level has risen 7 to 8 inches since 1900 and half of this rise has occurred since 1993; Arctic sea ice has diminished 50% and ocean acidification is occurring at possibly the fastest rate in at least 66 million years.  More coverage has been in the Atlantic, AP, and New York Times, among others.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a new report entitled ‘Building a National Capability to Monitor and Assess Medical Countermeasure Use During a Public Health Emergency’. Medical countermeasures (MCMs) are required during public health emergencies to mitigate the human health impact of threats, which range from environmental to chemical or biological threats.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a new report entitled ‘Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise.’ The report explores the benefits of bringing expertise in social and behavioral sciences into the communication of weather risks to the public.  

RCI affiliates Ben Horton and Patricia Findley appeared as guests on Radio Times, discussing rising sea levels and climate change in the context of Hurricane Sandy on the 5th year anniversary of its landfall. Ben Horton discusses the many factors determining sea level rise and discusses the increasing likelihood of storms with greater impacts. Patricia Findley discusses the societal impact of these storms on people, including the susceptibility of storm victims to depression.

Rutgers researcher Andra Garner led a team of researchers including Michael Mann, Kerry Emanuel, and RCI affiliate Robert Kopp in a publication which asses the increasing risk of floods in New York City due to sea level rise. Due to rising sea levels, every subsequent tropical cyclone will be more likely to cause damaging floods for the region. One potential piece of good news was that their study showed a shift in tropical cyclone tracks away from the east coast with continued global warming.

A Washington Post article on the new US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report discusses RCI affiliate Robert Kopp’s work on the the calculations of the economic cost of climate change. Although Kopp did not work on the GAO report, he was an author on one of the assessments the report relied upon to make its recommendations.

RCI affiliate Dave Robinson discusses the meteorological history of Hurricane Sandy on the 5th anniversary of the storm on APP.com. Robinson points out that it is not difficult to consider how much worse Hurricane Sandy could have been for the people of the State of New Jersey. He attributes the death toll being less than 40 in a state of 9 million people to the high tide the morning before the storm, convincing people who were going to ride it out that they should leave.

RCI affiliate Malin Pinsky discusses biodiversity in the ocean in a News Deeply article on the importance of data about biological activity in the oceans. Predation and climate change are thought to be large drivers in changes in biodiversity across the ocean.

RCI affiliate Serpil Guran, director of Rutgers  EcoComplex, recently received a grant from the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Authority to create the EcoIgnite Clean Energy Proof of Concept Center and Accelerator Program. According to Guran, their program plans to operate a weekend boot camp for young companies to help technology startups commercialize faster in the clean energy space.

Congratulations to RCI affiliate Enrique Curchitser who has been elected to the position of vice-chair of the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (Pacific ICES). Previously Curchitser was named U.S. Academic Delegate to PICES in 2014.

Rutgers researcher Tom Molnar hopes to alleviate the worldwide hazelnut shortage through the development of a more sustainable variety of hazelnut that is blight resistant and can be grown in New Jersey and across the northeast. Previously, hazelnuts had only been grown in Turkey and parts of Oregon, leading to shortages as Nutella grew in popularity.

The Nature Conservancy has released a new report analyzing coastal habitats in the northeast and mid-Atlantic which identifies coastal strongholds capable of sustaining biodiversity and natural services under threat from sea level rise. The result can help better understand the relative resilience of critical areas to inform management decisions.

detailing the potential economic effects of climate change as well as economic damages that have already occurred, as reported by NBC news. According to the report, the federal government has spent an estimated $350 billion over the past decade in response to extreme weather and fire events, which have been found to be exacerbated by climate change. The report recommends the President of the United States use this information to identify risks and craft an appropriate federal response.

Congratulations to RCI affiliate Ethan Schoolman on winning  the Campus Sustainability Research Award for outstanding achievements and progress toward sustainability from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). Schoolman authored a study which  found that millennial students currently enrolled at a major public university, while broadly supportive of public transportation, recycling, and conserving energy and water, are much less interested in incorporating environmental concerns into decisions about food and in actively reducing their consumption of material things and that despite sizeable investments in sustainability intiatives and environmental programs at the one public institution studied (University of Michigan), there is little evidence that undergraduate students are becoming more committed to sustainability as a result of their time on campus. In fact, student willingness to recycle and conserve natural resources may be highly dependent on the institutional conveniences of campus life, and it was not clear that students would continue such practices once these conveniences had disappeared. Schoolman notes that large schools like U of Michigan and Rutgers would benefit from opportunities to learn about and encounter sustainable food and alternative food systems inside and outside the classroom and that universities must find ways to encourage adopting environmentally responsible behaviors outside the “campus bubble” and into the real world and life after school.


RCI affiliates Robert Kopp and Lisa Auermuller are featured in an NJ101.5 article highlighting the risk of another storm like Hurricane Sandy impacting coastal communities struggling to adapt. According to Governor Chris Christie, progress has been extraordinary over the past five years as beaches from Cape May to Sandy Hook have been fortified with dunes and walls. Robert Kopp agrees, but is concerned with the lack of a coastal master plan to address remaining weaknesses. Lisa Auermuller confirms that progress has occurred on an individual level, but not at the community level, especially in terms of preparing for longer term aspects of climate change. Raising homes protects an individual’s property but offers nothing to protect roadways, water pumping stations, and stormwater systems. Additionally, the construction of dunes and walls have led to an increase in back bay flooding for many areas.

The ‘RU Sustainable to the CORE?’ conference was held on October 11th at the Cook Student Center. Co-sponsored by the Rutgers Climate Institute, along with many other campus groups and organized by the Sustainability Committee at Rutgers led by RCI affiliate Jill Lipoti, participants gathered to discuss how 17 global goals could be used to promote sustainability at Rutgers. Four ‘CORE’ areas were the focus of the conference, including curriculum, operations, research, and engagement. The discussion for goal 13, or ‘climate action’ was led by RCI affiliate Ming Xu, RCI co-director Robin Leichenko, and RCI associate director Marjorie Kaplan.