Home Resources RCI News Archive 2016-2017 Academic Year December


News in March 2017

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.

News in February 2017

According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, January 2017 was the 3rd warmest January on record globally. While Europe experienced record cold, Arctic and Antarctic sea ice both fell to their lowest extents on record for the month of January. All these records come despite a weak La Nina in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which typically favors cooler global average temperatures, according to WeatherUnderground. In contrast, the warmest and second warmest January on record occurred in 2007 and 2016, both years with an El Nino.

Richard Riman of Rutgers University co-invented a type of concrete that requires far lower temperatures to create than traditional concrete, according to Rutgers Today. The energy saved in concrete production can reduce the carbon footprint of concrete and cement by up to 70% if integrated industry-wide.

RCI affiliates Ben Horton and Robert Kopp and Rutgers student Eric Ashe were co-authors on a paper published in Nature Communications detailing the extreme variability in sea level in east and southeast Asia, according to Rutgers Today. In just a 2000 year period in the Holocene (between 6,850 and 6,500 years ago) , sea level rose 2 feet as a result of natural variability. The implication of this is that this oscillation added to anthropogenic global warming could have devastating consequences in the future.

RCI affiliate Daniel Van Abs, a Rutgers professor who helped to write the New Jersey Water Supply Plan 21 years ago, is interviewed on NJTV News about the New Jersey Water Supply Master Plan.  The State of New Jersey has been editing an updated water supply plan for four and a half years, but still has no updated plan. The water supply plan enables the state to adopt a long term strategy for conserving and managing water across the state, and without an updated plan, the state will be vulnerable to issues that arise with water scarcity.

The snow making industry allows ski slopes to stay open despite periods of snow drought and warmer weather, a practice that is being challenged by climate change. According to RCI affiliate David Robinson, snow is arriving later and melting earlier in some places like the Alps. On average, the snow season has declined five days per decade since the 1970s in the northern hemisphere.

The Hybrid Hazelnut Consortium, of which Rutgers is a member, is developing hazelnuts more apt at surviving cold and drought conditions. The goal of the consortium is to expand the commercial production area of hazelnuts, which will be achieved by selecting hazelnuts that can better handle adverse conditions. Tom Molnar of the Rutgers NJ Agricultural Experiment Station plays a key role in these selections.

A crack in the Larson C ice shelf of the eastern coast of the Antarctic peninsula is growing at a rapid rate, according to the New York Times. Project Midas, the research team that has been monitoring the crack since 2014, claims the iceberg will likely break off as the crack approaches softer ice within the next few months. Stress from higher temperatures in the region are likely to blame. Although the collapse of Larson C will not significantly alter global sea levels, the ice shelf acted as structural support for the glaciers behind it. With Larson C gone, the stability of the surrounding shelf is in jeopardy.

In a deal with NBC4 and Telemundo, Rutgers University was the recipient of a new cutting edge doppler radar, according to the Daily Targum. The radar has already been installed on Cook Campus and will soon provide regional radar for a 50,000 square mile area, roughly the size of Pennsylvania. According to RCI affiliate Steven Decker, director of the undergraduate meteorology department, students will be able to learn about the workings of the radar physically and will have access to the data for their own weather forecasts.

Congratulations to RCI affiliate Bob Kopp who was recently promoted to Professor I in the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences. His research focuses on past and future climate change uncertainty, focusing mostly on past sea level change and future sea level rise.

January 2017 was New Jersey’s 12th mildest January since 1895, according to RCI affiliate Dave Robinson in an NJ.com piece. With an average temperature of 36.6F, the state was 5.9F above normal. Warm temperatures led to below average snowfall but above average total precipitation.

RCI affiliates Rick Lathrop, Dina Fonseca, Michael Kennish, and Lisa Auermuller received a $743,000 National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) collaborative grant to examine sea level rise's impact on salt marshes, habitats, and managing mosquito populations. This research will provide an improved understanding of the intersection of coastal community resilience and wetlands and help to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Rutgers assistant research professor Jeffra Schaefer co-authored a pioneering study examining anticipated climate change induced increases in precipitation and its effects on marine ecosystems. As increased precipitation causes more runoff, organic matter increases in the water, allowing for the accumulation of mercury in marine life. In a Rutgers Today piece, Schaefer noted that the increase in organic matter can alter the foodweb, affecting how mercury accumulates in fish and shellfish; which can have  devastating impacts their nervous systems, lungs, kidneys, and eyes.

Despite a very rainy January, a drought warning remains in effect t throughout much of the State. According to RCI affiliate and state climatologist Dave Robinson (interviewed by NJ 101.5) that to break the drought, the rainy pattern must continue for an extended amount of time.

RCI affiliate Serpil Guran has been awarded $439,190 by the U.S. Department of Commerce for the project Rutgers Ecolgnite, an effort to assist small companies in pioneering new, innovative clean energy projects. Read more about this project here and  here. Learn more about Dr. Guran 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.

News in January 2017

RCI affiliate, Bob Kopp is co-author of the new NOAA report, Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States,” which provides both global and regional U.S. sea-level rise scenarios and tools for coastal preparedness planning and risk management as well as a review of recent scientific literature on “worst-case” global average sea-level projections and on the potential for rapid ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica. Professor Kopp notes in Rutgers Today that planning for sea-level rise is essential for risk management as  many areas have already started to flood more often and are potentially more vulnerable to permanent flooding in this century. In 2016, Professor Kopp led a Science and Technical Advisory Panel Report for sea-level rise specific to New Jersey.

The 2016 globally averaged surface temperature ended as the highest since record keeping began in 1880; the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces in 2016 was 58.69 degrees F or 1.69 degrees F above the 20th century average, surpassing the 2015 record by 0.07 degrees F. This was the third consecutive year that the annual global temperature record has been broken according to NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information.  The New York Times describes how such temperatures have affected different areas of the world.

Rutgers Professor Ken Able and RCI affiliate Benjamin Horton and his student, Jennifer Walker are featured in this NewsWorks piece on ghost forests in New Jersey coastal marshes and their work to better understand how sea level rise is influencing coastal forest decline to better plan for the future.


NOAA has recently released state climate summaries focusing on characteristics of the physical climate and coastal issues in accordance with NOAA's mission. Read New Jersey’s report here.

National Academies Press has a recently published Valuing Climate Damages: Updating Estimation of the Social Cost of Carbon Dioxide, for which RCI affiliate Bob Kopp is a recognized committee member. Read more about the Social Cost of Carbon in this interview with Professor Kopp in this Rutgers Today article.


RCI affiliate, Malin Pinsky is cited by the New York Times on the impact that climate change has had on the demographics of certain fish species, resulting in a fishing regulations that have failed to keep up to date with fish species locations.  


Congratulations to RCI affiliates Bob Kopp and Ben Horton who were co- authors of Temperature-driven global sea-level variability in the Common Era, the third most featured climate paper in the media in 2016. This paper assesses the relationship between temperature and global sea level variability over the Common Era through a statistical metaanalysis of proxy relative sea-level reconstructions and tide-gauge data. Among the findings was that the 20th century rise was extremely likely faster than during any of the 27 previous centuries.

Read here about RCI affiliate emerita, Professor Emeritus Bonnie McCay’s lifelong research on fisheries which has helped to better manage “The Commons”, a general term describing any system where the resources are used and perhaps owned jointly, in common.


Congratulations to RCI affiliate Daniel Van Abs who accepted a 2016 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award as a member of the steering committee member of Jersey Water Works, a coalition focused on solutions to the complex and costly problems associated with aging and inefficient water infrastructure statewide.  Read more here.

Read new Resources for the Future reports on Understanding the National Flood Insurance Program in New Jersey and Examining Flood Map Changes of New Jersey commissioned by the New Jersey Realtors Governmental Research Foundation.

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

News in December 2016

The Water Resources and Climate Change Workgroup (established in 2009 by the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force) recently released Updated Federal Interagency Report on Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate: Looking Forward: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate.

Eastern Region Climate Partners, including Southeast and Gulf of Maine, in partnership with the Southeast and Northeast Regional Climate Centers and NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information share the December edition of the NOAA Regional Climate Services Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook reports.

This Washington Post article notes while citing the National Snow & Ice Data Center that Arctic sea ice hit record low for November reflecting unusually high air temperatures, winds from the south and a warm ocean.

November is when sea ice in the Arctic usually begins to refreeze; RCI affiliate, Jennifer Francis is quoted by the New York Times explaining that she expects there to be an unusual winter as a result of this situation. In the Rutgers Targum, Professor Francis explains the phenomenon whereby losing sea ice allows more energy from the sun to be absorbed by the ocean and that when fall arrives, the ice is trying to refreeze but because the ocean is so warm it takes longer; heat from the water enters back into the atmosphere, further heating the air, reinforcing the process.

RCI affiliate, Bob Kopp, provides insights on climate policy in the incoming administration of President-elect Trump in the Rutgers Targum.

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

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