2018-2019 Academic Year

News in September 2018

 Green algae are expected to survive climate change, according to a Rutgers-led study in the journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution. RCI affiliate Debashish Bhattacharya is a contributor to this article, which details how certain green algae (which have evolved to tolerate hostile and fluctuating conditions in salt marshes and inland salt flats )are able to survive as they  stole genes from bacteria, allowing them to cope with salt and other physical stresses.. This has implications for the impact of climate change on the biology at the base of the food chain as well as provide clues to how nature can modify genomes, and suggest ways in which scientists may someday engineer more robust algae to serve as biofuels and provide other benefits.

An article published in Nature Climate Change describes a need for assessing the links between climate change, scenearios of geoengineering and health impacts, urging caution in using geoengineering to address climate change. RCI affiliate Alan Robock is included in this new research proposal to unite climate scientists, ecologists, and public health researchers in examining an important problem.

RCI affiliate Jennifer Francis’s research on the links between climate change and hurricanes is discussed in a Media Matters article on the lack of TV news coverage linking Hurricane Florence to the broader change in climate.

Rutgers was awarded $6.6 million as part of an NSF grant to a coalition of universities to carry out the foundation’s Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI). RCI Affiliate Oscar Schofield  is part of the winning team.  Rutgers is in charge of operating the cyberinfrastructure system, taking in and delivering the data collected. All of this helps create greater knowledge about the state of the oceans, the changing climate, and marine and coastal ecosystems.

The summer of 2018 was the 5th warmest on record in New Jersey, according to RCI affiliate Dave Robinson. App.com and WBGO  reports that 9 of the 10 warmest summers have occurred since 1999. Night-time temperatures have been particularly oppressive, and according to Robinson, this is consistent with an atmosphere with more moisture, which can make it difficult to get rid of daytime heat.

The New Jersey foilage forecast is looking grim, as experts expect a down year for colorful foilage across New Jersey, mostly because trees are dropping their leaves before the colors change due to disease and weather. According to arborist Bob O’Rourke, extreme heat paired with plenty of rain is favorable for leaf disease. According to RCI affiliate Dave Robinson, summers are lingering longer, which means impact to colorful fall leaves can be expected to continue into the future.

As Hurricane Florence dumps catastrophic amounts of rainfall on southeastern North Carolina, climate researcher and RCI affiliate Jennifer Francis discusses Florence in the context of climate change. To Bloomberg News, Francis describes how a warming Arctic contributes to slower weather patterns, forcing tropical cyclones to get stuck in the same place. To the NY Times, Francis mentions that the weakening of the jet stream tends to happen more during the summer, with disastrous results when hurricanes are involved.

Francis also was featured on a podcast by WHYY to discuss her research further.


A Washington Post article discusses the possible effects of climate change on the impacts of Hurricane Florence. RCI affiliate Robert Kopp contends that the 6 or 7 inches of sea level rise on the Carolina coast would have a non-trivial impact on the height of storm surge recorded as the hurricane made landfall. The greater danger is that as seas continue to rise, a storm equivalent to Florence would have a larger flooding footprint.

Rutgers University, in partnership with conservation groups and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, are constructing living artificial reefs along the Delaware Bay, using recycled oyster and clam shells, according to Rutgers Today and Newswire. The reef, constructed of oyster castles, will attract oyster larvae, providing habitat for wildlife, improving water quality, and reducing the impact from future storms. RCI affiliate David Bushek explains how this project helps to build a connection between the aquatic and terrestrial environment, which allows life to move between water and land.

According to RCI affiliate Dan Van Abs, New Jersey municipalities need to revamp their water infrastructure, much of which is nearly a century old and on the verge of breaking. Van Abs’ remarks come as the city of Hoboken has suffered 17 water main breaks this summer, which isn’t surprising given the age of the system, the increased demand on supply, and constant construction.RCI affiliate

Dave Robinson discusses the near-record breaking temperatures across New Jersey this past August a NorthJersey.com article. According to Robinson, the month was a tenth of a degree shy from the record high average set in 2016. Since 2001, 9 of the 16 warmest August in New Jersey have occurred since 2001, as global temperatures continue to rise.   

The NY Times published an interactive tool to explore how the world is warming from a local perspective. The analysis was conducted by the Climate Impact Lab, of which RCI affiliate Bob Kopp is a researcher for.  

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has published a new report Geologic Capture and Sequestration of Carbon, outlining current discussions on the state of the science of carbon capture, its deployment, research and monitoring needs, potential risks, and the costs of geological capture and storage. Additionally, the report Future Directions for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Energy Resources Program, was published, which considers geologically based energy resource challenges.

WHYY quotes RCI affiliate Benjamin Horton in an article reporting on the impact of climate change on the New Jersey shore. According to a study released by First Street Foundation, tidal flooding has destroyed $14.1 billion in real estate value across eight east coast states between 2005 and 2014. Responding to this, Horton said, “Across the whole of the U.S. coastline, we are in dire need of action.” 

Several climate experts, including RCI affiliate David Robinson list cities that will be least affected by climate change in the future in a Business Insider article. Mostly inland cities that are at high elevation are on the list, as this is the easiest way to avoid the impacts of sea level rise. Robinson chooses Minneapolis for its resilience to extreme heat and avoidance of hurricanes.

Rutgers University researchers have published a study in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, using computer models to design a protein that can help explain the start of life on Earth. RCI affiliate Paul Falkowski was an author on the study, which describes a protein that could have emerged spontaneously on the early Earth in the right conditions.