Climate basics


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Introduction to climate science basics and climate projections for New York State as presented to Marist summer institute class in July, 2013.

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  • Longer-term average weatherCan talk about it on varying scales –regional, continental, or whole worldPart of larger planetary system
  • Physical characteristics, chem comp, Earth’s orbit and much more determines the state of our climate systemThese 5 spheres are always exchanging materials through decomposition, photosynthesis, sedimentation, volcanization and many more processes.Last 2.5 million years were characterized by: glacial and inter-glacial cycles of 40-100K years eachClick –the climate is always changing, one reason: milankovitch cyclesD: Other reasons?
  • We know that by looking at ice cores that capture the comp of our atmosphere back in time.High correlation between CO2 and tempDriven by largely changes in earth’s orbit but amplified by CO2 levels in the atmosphere
  • That brings me to the C cycle. You can’t talk about the earth’s climate without discussing carbonThe C Cycle refers to the path of C through earth’s 5 spheres.Some are sinks, some are sources
  • The ocean is by far the largest surface reservoir for carbon.
  • Moving fossil carbon, which is in long-term cycle, to the short-term cycle
  • The burning of fossil fuels represents a one-way flow of carbon from the long- to the short-term reservoirs.The problem is there a one way flow, thanks to the ocean absorbed a lot, now becoming more acidic, ability to is slowing down
  • Like insulation in a houseFeedbacks that regulate or exacerbate – melting ice, increased veg.
  • IPCC – leading authorityWhat’s good: we control emissionsEmissions scenarios: pop, tech and affluenceWhat’s bad: we’re on the steepest track, quality of life, chinaOf course, many uncertainties: Complex earth system, feedbacks, sinks, sources
  • More extreme weather, more drought, more flood, higher Ts, etc…
  • Changes -- risksThrough historical data and modeling to highlight three primary climate hazards that NYS has and will continue to face.
  • One of our state’s best temp record is from the sewage plant in Pok. It goes back over a hundred years.They have measured and recording temperatures at the Poughkeepsie Sewage Treatment Plant for over 100 years. This serves as evidence of increasing average temps in the Mid-Hudson Valley.
  • Heavy downpour events have become more frequent in recent decades in New York State 74% since 1960. Projections indicate total annual precipitation is projected to increase only slightly. Overall, we can expect more dry periods intermixed with heavy rain events and decreased snow cover in the winter.
  • Here are annual precipitation data for Pok since 1895. You can see there’s more variability across years.-lines not statistically significant, just show how the range of precip has increased over time. More recently we see wetter years intermixed with drier years. Earlier in the century variation much smaller.
  • Risks
  • If you live in a house for 30 yrs (the typical mortgage), there is a 30% chance you will experience a 100-yr flood
  • Remember the estimates??Present day, with 100 year flood72” SLR will be like the 100 year flood all of the time
  • So, now that we all understand the potential of our future climate here in NYS, what can we do about it?
  • One way of protecting ourselves is to build in resilience. One definition is: It’s the ability to live and thrive under a wide range of conditions.Being able to adapt to change, minimize damage and bounce back quickly.Photo source:
  • Hurricanes Irene and Sandy focused our attention on flooding risks in NYS. Right here in Kingston we have serious flooding risks along the waterfront. Here is a photo from Irene, you can see the maritime museum and the steelhouse.Point out Rondout, HR, street. Not just riverfront but waterfront. Applies to tributary communities.More pics?
  • Once they understand the risks they can start to imagine solutions. In general, you can think of three overarching adaptation routes: you can protect, accommodate, or retreat. Which strategies you choose will be determined by the values and goals of your community. Think about issues like economic development, recreation, security and ecological resources.
  • Protecting means building hard barriers between you and the water. This has been the majority of our flooding solutions in the past. The problem is, they only protect up to a certain point and can lead to a false sense of security. This is a levee in NOLA.Is this really Beacon?
  • Accommodate means living with the water and reducing its impact. Here is an example of a permeable park that allows water storage and inundation. On the right is the riverwalk in Tarrytown that is designed to flood but also allows for human enjoyment and recreation along the river.
  • This is an example of flooding accommodation right here in Kingston.
  • Finally, there is strategic retreat where people move built spaces out of the high risk flood zones. This is happening now in Staten Island where whole communities are accepting buyouts to relocate.Is that pic from Cold Spring?
  • This is the same stretch of buildings as in the CBA model
  • Bulkhead. Expensive, may eventually be overtopped
  • Vegetated revetment, floodproofed buildings.
  • You can imagine a scenario where damage has become so costly and repetitive that relocation makes economic sense. Notice higher elevation homes in the back. This can still become a recreational destination and provide economic benefits.
  • Climate basics

    1. 1. Climate Basics Marist College Summer Institute Libby Murphy Hudson River Estuary Program/Cornell WRI NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
    2. 2. Outline • The Hudson River Estuary Program • My background • Basics of climate science • Climate change in New York • Climate mitigation • Climate adaptation • Field trip!
    3. 3. Hudson River Estuary Program Core Mission • Ensure clean water • Protect and restore fish, wildlife, and their habitats • Provide water recreation and river access • Adapt to climate change • Conserve world-famous scenery
    4. 4. How I got here • Hudson Valley native • M.S. Climate Science and Policy, Bard College (2014) • M.B.A. in Sustainability, Bard College (2014) • B.A., Geology, Vassar College (2008) • Compton Mentor Fellow • Theodore Gordon Flyfisher Scholar • Adolph Sutro Fellow • Work in climate outreach, renewable energy start ups
    5. 5. Basics of climate science
    6. 6. What is climate? “You dress for the weather and build a house for the climate” “Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get”
    7. 7. The Earth’s Climate System • Made up of 5 “spheres”
    8. 8. How do we know? • Greenland ice cores, detailed 800K year record of CO2 • Instrumental record since 1850
    9. 9. Carbon Cycle Basics
    10. 10. Difference between a planet with and one without a carbon cycle NASA
    11. 11. The long- and short-term carbon cycles Rock reservoir 50 x 106 Gt* Limestone Organic carbon in sedimentary rocks long-term 40 x 106 10 x 106 Fossil fuels 4.7 x 103 (coal = 4.0 x 103) Marine carbonate sediments World ocean 2.5 x 103 40 x 103 Dissolved inorganic carbon 39 x 103 Dissolved organic carbon 0.66 x 103 Organic carbon in soils and terrestrial sediments short-term Sizes of the carbon reservoirs 1.6 x 103 Organic carbon in permafrost 0.9 x 103 Atmospheric CO2 0.73 x 103 Living biomass 0.66 x 103 *Gt = gigatons = 109 metric tons Sources: Kump et al., 2004; Zimov et al., 2006; others
    12. 12. Short-term carbon cycle ocean 40,000 Gt C 97 Gt C/yr atmosphere 730 Gt C 101 Gt C/yr 118 Gt C/yr 121 Gt C/yr living things 660 Gt C permafrost 900 Gt C soils/sediments 1600 Gt C The surface reservoirs
    13. 13. Enter industrial revolution
    14. 14. one-way flow from long- to short-term reservoirs 8.0 Gt C/yr ocean 40,000 Gt C 97 Gt C/yr atmosphere 730 Gt C 101 Gt C/yr 118 Gt C/yr 121 Gt C/yr living things 660 Gt C permafrost 900 Gt C soils/sediments 1600 Gt C The surface reservoirs fossil fuels 4700 Gt C sedimentary rocks 50 million Gt C Long-term cycle deep reservoirs
    15. 15. Keeling’s Curve Mauna Loa record The Keeling curve
    16. 16. The Greenhouse Effect
    17. 17. A time of rapid Climate Change?
    18. 18. We choose our future
    19. 19. For more info
    20. 20. Climate change in New York
    21. 21. Changes to our climate Increasing temperatures • Rising sea level • Changing precipitation patterns
    22. 22. Increasing temperatures Since 1970: •Global annual average temp. up nearly 1°F •US annual average temp. up 1.8°F •New York annual average temp. up nearly 2°F •New York winter temperatures up almost 5°F
    23. 23. Year 2010 2005 46 2000 1995 1990 1985 1980 1975 1970 1965 1960 1955 1950 1945 1940 1935 1930 1925 1920 1915 1910 1905 1900 1895 Annual Mean Temperature (F) 55 Annual mean temperature in Poughkeepsie has been increasing 54 53 52 51 50 49 48 47 y = 0.026x - 1.346 R² = 0.374 45
    24. 24. Increasing temperatures Future around Marist:
    25. 25. Sea level rise Historic: • 15” in NY Harbor in the past 150 years
    26. 26. Changing precipitation patterns • 74% Increase in heavy downpours between 1950-1979 and 1980-2009 • More variability and volatility
    27. 27. Year 2010 2005 2000 1995 1990 1985 1980 1975 1970 1965 1960 1955 1950 1945 1940 1935 1930 1925 1920 1915 1910 1905 1900 1895 Annual Precipitation (inches) Annual rainfall in Poughkeepsie has become more variable 65 60 55 50 45 40 35 30 25 20
    28. 28. So how will this affect us? Heat waves Short-term drought Flooding
    29. 29. Heat waves
    30. 30. Short-term drought • Higher temperatures, increased evaporation • Reduction in steady rain and snow precipitation
    31. 31. Flooding • Intense precipitation • Sea-level rise • Intense storms
    32. 32. What is the “100-year” flood? • FEMA, FIRMs • 1% probability = 100 yr • 10% = 10 year • Over 30 years there is a 30% chance of a 100-yr flood
    33. 33. Sea Level Rise Mapper by Scenic Hudson
    34. 34. Climate mitigation
    35. 35. What is climate mitigation? • Mitigation = reduce the severity of an issue/problem • Climate mitigation = reduce the severity of climate change • Reducing the causes of climate change • Some definitions: efficient, renewable, low-impact, carbonneutral, green buildings
    36. 36. How? • Energy/heat, transportation, buildings • Renewable energy, efficient transportation, green buildings
    37. 37. Climate adaptation
    38. 38. What is climate adaptation? • Adaptation= to adapt to new conditions • Climate adaptation= to adapt to the impacts of climate change • Reducing the impacts of climate change • Some definitions: resilience, accommodate, fortify, retreat
    39. 39. Resilience
    40. 40. Flooding adaptation
    41. 41. Current situation
    42. 42. Flooding Adaptation Strategies •Fortify •Accommodate •Strategically Relocate
    43. 43. Fortify Levee, New Orleans, LA Seawall, Beacon, NY
    44. 44. Accommodate Floodable park concept, NYC Elevated structures with flood gates, Hamburg, Germany
    45. 45. Local example of accommodation Steelhouse restaurant, Kingston, NY
    46. 46. Strategic Relocation Wetland with walkway concept, Toronto, Canada Natural shoreline with gazebo, Cold Spring
    47. 47. Simulations
    48. 48. E Strand in Kingston Kingston waterfront low tide
    49. 49. 4’ of Sea Level Rise Kingston waterfront Simulation: elevated sea level (4’) at low tide
    50. 50. Example of Fortify Kingston waterfront Simulation: elevated sea level (low tide), armored protection
    51. 51. Example of Accommodate Kingston waterfront Simulation: elevated sea level (low tide), vegetated revetment, floodproofed buildings
    52. 52. Example of Strategic Relocation Kingston waterfront Simulation: elevated sea level (low tide), strategic retreat