2018-2019 Academic Year

2018-2019 Academic Year

News and Highlights in October 2018

 Become a Rutgers Environmental Steward. Participants receive classroom and hands-on training from local and university experts on climate change, soil health, geology, water resource protection, environmental policy, alternative energy, and habitat conservation, as well as additional topics that vary by county. The program will be offered in Atlantic, Essex, Middlesex, and Somerset counties in 2019.

A  review study published in Annual Reviews suggests that sea level could rise by nearly 8 feet by 2100 and 50 feet by 2300 under the least optimistic greenhouse gas emissions scenario.  RCI affiliate and co-author Robert Kopp acknowledges the great uncertainty in these projections, but emphasizes that this is not a reason to ignore the challenge that sea level rise of any amount will pose. This research has local implications, as it means South Jersey’s barrier islands will disappear at high tide at the beginning of 2100.

RCI affiliate Robert Kopp and RCI Co-director Anthony Broccoli are featured in article on NJ.com that that helps to explain the local impact of climate change as described by the most recent IPCC report. According to Kopp, in 2100 New Jersey will have a similar climate to North Carolina in the current day, while Broccoli emphasized how New Jersey is subject to both sea-level rise and sinking land.

RCI affiliate Jennifer Francis explains why global climate is so sensitive to the Arctic ice in a CBC article on the Arctic’s influence on climate. The ice-albedo feedback, due to the reflective nature of ice, has already caused faster warming in the Arctic regions compared to the rest of the world, and  is expected to play an enormous role in the future.

RCI affiliates Jennifer Francis and Benjamin Horton discuss the goal of limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees C in a New Yorker article, and what this goal means for the survival of human society.

RCI affiliate Alan Robock discusses his research on nuclear winter and how devastating the climate impact following a global nuclear war would be in an article on Vox. As cities targeted by nuclear bombs burn, smoke is lofted into the stratosphere and spreads throughout the world, blocking out the sun.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is forming a new committee to develop a research agenda and research governance approaches for climate-intervention strategies that reflect sunlight to cool Earth, according to a press release. The committee will focus on marine cloud brightening, stratospheric aerosol injection, and cirrus cloud modification, examining impacts and risks as well as feasibility of technology.

A new publication titled Understanding the Long-Term Evolution of the Coupled Natural-Human Coastal System has been released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report identifies scientific and technical gaps in understanding the interactions and feedbacks between human and natural processes, defining a research and development program in response to identified gaps.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine has released a research agenda for Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration that calls for a substantial research initiative to advance these technologies that remove and sequester carbon dioxide from air as they need to play a significant role in mitigation climate change.

The New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance, co-facilitated by RCI Affiliate Jeanne Herb and RCI Associate Director, Marjorie Kaplan, received the 2018 Coastal and Ocean Champions Award from the Urban Coast Institute and was recognized by a joint resolution of the New Jersey legislature praising its meritorious efforts.  New Jersey Governors Thomas Kean and James Florio, Honorary Co-Chairs of the Alliance accepted the award on behalf of the Alliance.

Top Row Left to Right: Governor James J. Florio and Governor Thomas Kean, Honorary Co-chairs of the New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance. Bottom Row Left to Right: Kathleen Ellis, Co-Chair, NJ Climate Adaptation Alliance with Alliance member Russ Furnari, PSEG and Alliance Co-facilitators Marjorie Kaplan and Jeanne Herb.

The IPCC has released their special 1.5°C report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The report paints a dire picture of the consequences of climate change, which could only be avoided through a transformation of the world economy at a speed and scale with ‘no documented historic precedent’. The report describes a world of worsening food shortages, wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040,while conceding that avoiding the worst consequences is politically unlikely. Read more about it in this summary at the NY Times.  

RCI affiliate Malin Pinsky is featured in a Yale Climate Connections article about the impact of global warming on the habitats of marine life, which he has studied extensively. Atlantic cod will likely move away from U.S. waters, and the impacts of this can only be reduced through a reduction in carbon emissions, according to Pinsky.

September was abnormally warm and wet in New Jersey, according to RCI affiliate New Jersey State Climatologist Dave Robinson in a NJ101.5 article. In terms of temperatures, it is in the top three warmest Septembers going back to 1895 across the state. While South Jersey saw the warmest September on record, 1961 and 2015 were warmer for the entire state. Warm and wet conditions have led to green conditions, but also contributed to disease to some agricultural crops.

A Rutgers-led study finds that global warming will likely lead to more extreme wet and dry weather around the world, according to an article from Duke University. Rutgers’ Jiacan Yuan was the lead author and RCI affiliate Robert Kopp was a contributing author on the study, which found that an increased persistence of subtropical stationary waves in northern hemisphere summers cause more persistent high pressure over the North Pacific and North Atlantic along with more persistent low pressure over Eurasia and North America.


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.