2018-2019 Academic Year

News and Highlights in November 2018

The Fourth National Climate Assessment  has been released, assessing a range of potential climate change-related impacts, with an aim to help decision makers better identify risks that could be avoided or reduced. RCI affiliate Robert Kopp was a contributor to Chapter 2: Our Changing Climate.  The report warns of climate change's severe negative impact on the US economy under a ‘business as usual’ emissions scenario, according to an article in the NY Times. Notably, the report concluded that climate change was already harming the US economy, citing more severe heat waves and wildfires in addition to torrential downpours in wet regions and increasing water scarcity in dry regions The Northeast Chapter mentions the work of the New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance in describing efforts to to build resilience to environmental challenges and adapt to a changing climate. Among many of its conclusions, it notes that the major negative impacts on critical infrastructure, urban economies and nationally significant historic sites are already occurring and will become more common in a changing climate, as well as mentions impacts to tourism, farming and forestry with less distinct seasons and milder winters, adaptive capacity of marine systems and coastal communities will influence ecological and socioeconomic outcomes as climate risks increase, and increased health-related impacts and costs due to more extreme weather, warmer temperatures, degradation of air and water quality and sea-level rise.

Rutgers scientists have made a technological breakthrough by developing a catalyst that can convert carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming, into plastics, fabrics, resins, and other products, reports Rutgers Today. In a study published in the journal of Energy & Environmental Science, nickel and phosphorus, which are cheap and abundant, can be used as catalysts to convert carbon dioxide and water into a variety of carbon-based products. A Rutgers start-up company called RenewCO₂ has already earned a patent for the electrocatalysts, as the results of their research are planned for commercial use.The environmental merits of online shopping versus brick and mortar stores are investigated in an

article in NorthJersey.com, as the holiday shopping season moves into its peak. Both options can be ‘green’, but one’s own decisions can make the difference, such as trying on clothes to avoid return trips or using retailers that use greener packaging. According to Jill Lipoti, RCI affiliate, sustainability is about multiple factors, such as the amount of water used to grow cotton, raising sheep, manufacturing, and dying fabric.RCI affiliate

Lisa Auermueller’s coordination and outreach with local stakeholders is detailed in a local news article where she shows officials in Ocean and Atlantic counties how to assess their vulnerabilities to storm surge using tools developed by the Rutgers University Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis in combination with sea-level rise data developed through the Rutgers facilitated New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance.

The Guardian reports on a research study that discusses how global warming could make hurricanes dump more rainfall as well as reach higher windspeeds. RCI affiliate Jennifer Francis, who is not affiliated with the study, refers to this study as adding "exclamation points to the already clear message that we must slow global warming by conserving energy and switching from fossil to renewable fuels while preparing for more extreme weather to come.” 

Congratulations to RCI affiliate Travis Miles, who received the 2018 Ocean News and Technology Young Professional Award from the Marine Technology Society for his work using ocean sensory technology to understand hurricane intensity and determine the ocean’s role in modulating hurricane energy.

Four affiliates of the Rutgers Climate Institute were featured in a Rutgers Magazine’s Earth in the Balance  highlighting their scholarship on different aspects of climatic change. Jennifer Francis, Malin Pinsky, Kenneth Miller, and Alan Robock are all at the forefront of their fields, united by their passion for researching changes in climate and have each contributed greatly to understanding the climate whether it be focusing on Arctic sea ice, marine organisms, sea level rise, or volcanic eruptions and geoengineering.



Follow the blog of  RCI affiliate Elisabeth Sikes and her research team as they sail across the Indian Ocean to take sediment core samples of the ocean floor, hoping to reconstruct the climate of the last ice age on the project Coring to Reconstruct Ocean Currents and Carbon dioxide Across 2 Seas .

New Jersey has been targeted as one of the best places for offshore wind farms because of a shallow continental shelf and seemingly endless wind resources due to high temperature variability from winter to summer, according to RCI affiliate Josh Kohut in a NJ Spotlight feature on New Jersey’s offshore wind potential. The one thing standing in the way of making offshore wind a reality in New Jersey is political will and ironing out fine details such as who will control the transmission of energy. These obstacles will have to be overcome in order to achieve the state’s goal of 3500 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030. 

Variation in the size and shape of blue crabs can influence survival, according to a Rutgers University study by doctoral student Joseph Caracappa and RCI affiliate Daphne Munroe. This has important implications for commercial interests, as the differences in size and shape can give some crabs an advantage when it comes to swimming and feeding. Understanding the survivability of different crab populations will become increasingly important to the crab industry as the climate continues to get warmer.

A Rutgers University mosquito control approach helped Maryland residents reduce the population of invasive Asian tiger mosquitoes by 76%, reports Rutgers Today. RCI affiliate Dina Fonseca was an author on the study detailing the project, describing it as a rejection of the top-down approach to mosquito control. Mosquito control has failed in the past due to high attrition and lack of personal motivation, but this project relies on cultivating strong relationships between volunteers, scientists, and their communities.

Rutgers Associate Professor Thomas Molnar and his team have experiencing great success in developing  disease-resistant hazelnut trees through a rigorous program of cross-breeding, reports American Farm Publications.

RCI affiliate Asa Rennermalm discusses the unexpectedly fast rate of melting on Greenland’s glaciers in a News12 NJ article. The cause is primarily due to anthropogenic warming. The collapse of all Greenland ice would lead to a 20-foot increase in global sea level, putting coastal cities at an enormous risk, which makes researching this area so crucial future coastal habitability.

As the climate warms, the habitat of the southern pine beetle is moving northward, and has already established itself in New Jersey according to an article in the Rutland Herald. A single night at 0 degrees Fahrenheit kills off most of the beetles, but warmer temperatures at night over the past 50 years have failed to keep them in check. The beetle has been observed to attack and kill any species of pine they encounter.

The National Weather Service (NWS) presented Rutgers with an award honoring Rutgers University for 50 years of maintaining its weather station. RCI Co-director, Anthony Broccoli accepted the award on behalf of the university.  The Rutgers station is part of a network of 8700 stations around the United States; the data, primarily collected by students, are  widely used to document variations in weather and climate.  Rutgers has been observing the weather daily for over 100 years, but the current station has been in continuous existence since 1968.

New Jersey is especially vulnerable to sea-level rise that will accompany climate change, although New Jersey is already working toward lowering emissions as the Global Warming Response Act requires an 80% emissions reduction by 80% by 2050. RCI affiliate David Robinson weighs in, advocating for a combination of energy efficiency as well as a transition to clean energy and discusses the need to adapt.    

Puffin populations have made a remarkable comeback in the northern Atlantic due to conservation efforts, but changes in the Labrador Current as the climate changes is disrupting the ecosystems that Puffins depend on, the American Prospect reports. Herring are an ideal fish for many seabird species because of their high fat content, but the fish have virtually disappeared from the puffin diet due to overfishing as well as the northward creep of warmer water. Herring are driven deeper and farther out into the ocean, and according to RCI affiliate Malin Pinsky, just out of the diving range of puffins.