News & Events

The latest climate change news from Cornell and beyond.

 

News roundup

In one ACSF-funded project, researchers will develop an accounting tool to assess the net climate benefits of land management plans that take into account the land's surface reflectivity, or “albedo” -- an important but complex climate effect that may counterbalance biofuels’ benefits.

In one ACSF-funded project, researchers will develop an accounting tool to assess the net climate benefits of land management plans that take into account the land’s surface reflectivity, or “albedo” — an important but complex climate effect that may counterbalance biofuels’ benefits.

Atkinson Center grants $1.2 million to sustainable ideas [Cornell Chronicle 2015-06-18] - Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future (ACSF) has given $1.2 million from its Academic Venture Fund to 11 new university projects selected from 37 proposals. This year marks the second straight year where more than $1 million has been granted. “We make seed grants to multidisciplinary teams with exciting ideas that address sustainability problems and opportunities. The process is very competitive and usually brings together faculty who have not previously worked together,” says Frank DiSalvo, Atkinson Center director and the John A. Newman Professor of Physical Science.

Cornell Tech to build first passive house residential high-rise [Cornell Chronicle 2015-06-17] - The first residential building on Cornell Tech’s Roosevelt Island campus will become the first high-rise residential building in the world built to passive house (PH) standards, a rigorous building standard for energy consumption. The building will become the beacon of the Cornell Tech campus and a symbol of the school’s commitment to sustainability. Construction is set to begin this month on the 26-story building; it will comprise 350 residential units and open as part of the campus’s first phase in 2017. “Constructing the first passive house residential high-rise in the world is the latest and most exciting example of our effort to set new benchmarks in sustainability and innovation,” said Cornell Tech Dean Dan Huttenlocher. “We hope this will serve as a model for how passive house standards can be brought to scale in the United States and create a new template for green design here in New York City.”

How will climate change affect gardening? [Ithaca Journal 2015-06-11] – Tips for Upstate New York gardeners to respond to a changing climage.

Polls produced by students reveal shifting attitudes [Cornell Chronicle 2015-06-18] -  According to a Cornell University poll, young adults are much more likely to report that they will be politically active over the next few years, compared with everyone over 25. This and related polls show that younger citizens are taking more liberal positions. More of them want action on climate change; most are accepting of gay marriage; and they consider alcohol a more dangerous drug than marijuana. When a question about climate change was preceded by “scientists have predicted irreversible changes to Earth’s climate by 2030…” a little more than 50 percent favored government action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But when the year was changed to 2100 at least 60 percent got on board. The pollsters speculated that if the cutoff date was too soon, people would think that the government couldn’t do anything about it anyway.


In the news

Round up of recent news …

Cornell’s Hydroelectric Plant in Fall Creek gorge generates 2 percent of the university’s electricity. Jason Koski/University Photography

Cornell’s Hydroelectric Plant in Fall Creek gorge generates 2 percent of the university’s electricity. Jason Koski/University Photography

Book details how biofuel policies affect food prices [Cornell Chronicle 2015-05-14] – Since their inception in 2006, biofuel policies have created turmoil in the world grains and oilseeds markets and made a more profound impact on society than any other topic in food policy and agricultural economics, according to a new book.

Restored turbines to churn once more [Cornell Chronicle 2015-05-13] – Crews used a heavy crane May 12 to lift the second reconditioned Ossberger crossflow turbine into Cornell’s Hydroelectric Plant in Fall Creek gorge. The plant generates 2 percent of the university’s electricity.

Northern Birds Invade The Southern US In Huge Numbers When Climate Shifts [Tech Times 2014-05-12] – Until recently ornithologists were unsure what was leading birds such as pine siskins to migrate south some years but not others. But a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences May 11 provides evidence for the prevalent hypothesis that these fluctuations are linked with climate shifts that result in changes in seed production in these species’ boreal forest habitat in northern Canada. ”It was clear that climate plays a role, but it’s never been clear whether its effects are direct or indirect,” senior study author Walt Koenig of Cornell University said in an interview.


Cornell climate change experts share insight with Albany leaders

 

Climate Change‬ and agriculture experts presented a forum in Albany on Tuesday to bring their research to lawmakers and staff in order to help inform potential policy. Pictured are (L-R): Professor Mike Hoffmann, director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station; Allison Chatrchyan, director of the Cornell Institute for Climate Change in Agriculture; David Wolfe, Horticulture professor and co-author of New York’s ClimAID report. New York State Sen. Tom O'Mara; Toby Ault, assistant professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; and Julie Suarez, associate dean of government and community relations for CALS.

Climate Change‬ and agriculture experts presented a forum in Albany on Tuesday to bring their research to lawmakers and staff in order to help inform potential policy. Pictured are (L-R): Professor Mike Hoffmann, director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station; Allison Chatrchyan, director of the Cornell Institute for Climate Change in Agriculture; David Wolfe, Horticulture professor and co-author of New York’s ClimAID report. New York State Sen. Tom O’Mara; Toby Ault, assistant professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; and Julie Suarez, associate dean of government and community relations for CALS.

Via CALS Notes [2015-05-13]:

Floods, droughts, pests and pathogens were among the weighty topics considered at the New York State Capitol on Tuesday.

In the middle of a busy legislative session day, Sen. Tom O’Mara and Assembly member Steve Englebright, chairs of the Senate and Assembly environmental conservation committees, hosted a Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences educational forum designed to provide insight into how extreme weather variations are impacting New York’s farm community. O’Mara and Englebright opened the forum, which also saw attendance by Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Bill Magee, Assembly members Barbara Lifton and Cliff Crouch – along with a packed house of legislative and executive staff, and agricultural and environmental stakeholders.

Assistant Professor Toby Ault from Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences entertained and sobered the crowd by explaining radiant heat. Taking a page from famous Cornell alum Bill Nye the Science Guy, Ault walked attendees through a demonstration of radiant heat with an infrared camera, a metal globe and a blowtorch. Explaining how greenhouse gases interact with earth’s surface for good and for bad, Ault pointed out the extremes in weather fluctuations have become far greater over time, how his recent work has predicted a “megadrought” in the US Southwest, and that over time the United States will become progressively drier.

Horticulture Professor David Wolfe, a contributing author to the 2011 New York State ClimAID report, told the audience how increased “growing degree days,” changes in plant hardiness zones and fluctuations in extreme rainfall events are hitting New York’s farmers. With ecosystems changing as direct result of changing weather patterns and more extreme weather events, farmers will face greater challenges in dealing with invasive species, increased overwintering pests, early warming and unseasonable frost events, intensified rainfall and difficulty in predicting what types of crops to plant.  Wolfe emphasized the need to focus resources towards Cornell’s New York State Integrated Pest Management program, noting the prevalence of new and different pests will bring more challenges to farmers that should be met with by environmentally sensitive strategies for control.

California farmers have faced severe hardships weathering the impacts of a four-year drought, and Entomology Professor Mike Hoffmann, associate dean of CALS and director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, showcased recent research documenting the price increases for consumers nationally as a result of California’s difficult farm economy. Hoffman said price increases, but also an inability to grow certain crops such as red wine grapes and other water-thirsty varieties may create a demand for farmers in New York and the Northeast to supply more fresh market fruits and vegetables.

Allison Chatrchyan, the director the Cornell Institute for Climate Change in Agriculture, spoke about farmer adaptation and mitigation needs for the future. Citing a yet-to-be-published poll that found that 82 percent of New York’s farmers believe that climate change is occurring, Allison’s work has found that farmers are already facing losses from severe weather events. Chatrchyan said the institute is working to create a set of online decision-making tools for New York farmers to better understand and minimize their risk. Using historical data and climate modeling, tools such as a frost free calculator, a growing-degree yield prediction tool, and eventually a carbon-assessment tool will give farmers in New York specific data by which to make better farming decisions.

See also: Water-rich farms win, Cornell claims [Albany Times-Union 2015-05-13]


News round-up

Actor and activist Ted Danson speaks about his passion for protecting the oceans during the Jill and Ken Iscol Distinguished Environmental Lecture April 20.

Actor and activist Ted Danson speaks about his passion for protecting the oceans during the Jill and Ken Iscol Distinguished Environmental Lecture April 20.

Recent climate change related news from the Cornell Chronicle:

Scientists expect more coral disease under climate change [Cornell Chronicle 2015-05-04] - As greater atmospheric carbon dioxide boosts sea temperatures, tropical corals face a bleak future. New climate model projections show that conditions are likely to increase the frequency and severity of coral disease outbreaks, reports a team of researchers led by Cornell scientists, published today (May 4) in Nature Climate Change.

Better batteries to break dependence on fossil fuels [Cornell Chronicle 2015-04-28] – Cornell researchers are developing fuel cell and battery technologies to help power cars, consumer electronics and industry.

Ted Danson uses celebrity to fight for healthy oceans [Cornell Chronicle 2015-04-28] - On April 20, delivering the Jill and Ken Iscol Distinguished Environmental Lecture on campus, actor and activist Ted Danson spoke on his passionate activism to protect, conserve and heal oceans. The event was sponsored by the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

Professors gaze toward a secure, sustainable future [Cornell Chronicle 2015-04-26] - On California’s current drought, Susan Christopherson, chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning, said: “California has always underpriced the cost of water and particularly for the farmers. So there were never any incentives … to go toward – for example – Israeli methods of drip irrigation.”She continued: “There have always been droughts in California, because that’s … [the] kind of climate. It’s worse this time. The question now is going to be moving toward a situation where agriculture is paying for the true cost of water.”

$18.5M grant aims to boost staple crop breeding worldwide  [Cornell Chronicle 2015-04-09] - To streamline the breeding of five staple crops – wheat, rice, maize, sorghum and chickpea – the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded Cornell $18.5 million for a project that will put modular, open-source breeding software resources into the hands of plant breeders in the developing world. The databases will include information about drought tolerance, disease resistance and yield.


Registration open for Dairy Environmental Systems & Climate Adaptation Conference

dairy_environmental_systems600July 29 – 31, 2015
The Statler Hotel, Ithaca, NY

This 2-day regional conference on July 29 – 20, 2015  will feature a unique opportunity to learn about emerging dairy housing and manure management systems in conjunction with regional climate trends and national and international drivers, along with adaptation strategies for the Northeast and upper mid-west U.S, and to visit the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York.  Registration is now open!

The conference will feature an optional day of tours on July 31, 2015 featuring multiple options that showcase on-farm integrated waste handling/treatment systems, on-farm climate adaptation strategies, unique agricultural enterprises, artisanal cheese makers and much more.  More information can be found on the tours page.

Visit the conference website.


Ted Danson to deliver Iscol Lecture

Ted Danson[Cornell Chronicle 2015-04-08]

Actor and environmental activist Ted Danson will deliver the Jill and Ken Iscol Distinguished Environmental Lecture, “Fish Tales: How Ocean Conservation Became My Passion,” Monday, April 20, at 5 p.m. in Call Alumni Auditorium, Kennedy Hall.

Danson’s recent book is “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them.” Danson will share his personal transformation from actor to activist and his passion for oceans. He will explore the threats to our oceans and celebrate recent success stories, including more than a million square miles of ocean protected and the recovery of important commercial fisheries. The next big initiative targets the countries that control 40 percent of the world’s fish catch. Policy changes can make the oceans so abundant that seafood could potentially feed one billion people a healthy meal each day.

Danson founded the American Oceans Campaign (AOC) in 1987 to alert Americans to ocean abuses. In 2001, AOC merged with Oceana, which works to show citizens how they can participate in protecting and restoring marine resources.

The Jill and Ken Iscol Distinguished Environmental Lecture brings eminent scholars, scientists, newsmakers and opinion leaders to Cornell to address environmental issues of paramount importance to our planet. Hosted by the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, the Iscol Lecture recognizes interdisciplinary scholarship on the frontier of scientific inquiry and provides opportunities for Cornell students, faculty, staff and the public to gain new knowledge about pressing environmental issues.


Adding renewable energy to power grid requires flexibility

Eilyan Bitar

Eilyan Bitar

[Cornell Chronicle 2015-03-31]

Solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles and other green power sources are proliferating rapidly, but their reliable integration into the existing electric grid is another story.

A study led by Eilyan Bitar, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, offers a comprehensive reimagining of the power grid that involves the coordinated integration of small-scale distributed energy resources. The study, commissioned by the Power Systems Engineering Research Center (PSERC), asserts that the proliferation of renewable energy must happen at the periphery of the power grid, which will enable the local generation of power that can be coordinated with flexible demand.

Bitar’s study outlines a new architecture to enable what he calls a grid with an intelligent periphery – a version of the so-called smart grid – along with coordination strategies and mathematical models to simulate how such a reorganized grid would work.

“The uncoordinated proliferation of distributed energy resources will wreak havoc at scale,” Bitar said. “Certain components of the legacy power system will fail; the existing distribution infrastructure isn’t equipped to accommodate, for instance, a large number of electric vehicles plugging into the grid at the same time under the same transformer … but, imagine taking all these new resources and coordinating their control.”

Read the whole article.


For Northeast, a brutal winter redefines ‘enough is enough’

 

Art DeGaetano, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences. (Photo: Jason Koski/University Photography)

Art DeGaetano, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences. (Photo: Jason Koski/University Photography)

Associated Press [2015-03-06]

Forget the winter of our discontent. For Northeasterners enduring one of the coldest, snowiest seasons in decades, it’s the winter of our exasperation, full-on funk and enough-is-enough rage.

From slush-covered Manhattan intersections to snow-choked Boston streets, moods are as low and tempers short as a record-breaking winter seems to have gone on all too long. …

The when-will-it-end winter has even spawned a Twitter hashtag, # nomoresnow, and prompted the tourism office in Ithaca, New York, to declare “winter, you win,” suggesting visitors try the Florida Keys instead.

The Northeast was “the standout globally” for being colder than normal in February, said Art DeGaetano, director of the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University. At least seven cities — including Hartford, Connecticut; Worcester, Massachusetts, and Buffalo, New York — had their coldest months on record.

Read the whole article.


‘Springcasting’ webinar March 3

 

Toby Ault

Toby Ault

Cornell Chronicle [2015-02-26]

Thanks to a changing environment, trees and other plants experience advanced budding and blooming – or season creep. Toby Ault, assistant professor of earth and atmospheric science, will discuss “springcasting” in a public webinar hosted by USA National Phenology Network on Tuesday, March 3, at 12:30 p.m.

“The timing of spring in North America is marked by the return of warmer weather, migrations of animals, birds and insects, and the emergence of foliage after being dormant through the winter,” said Ault, who directs Cornell’s Emerging Climate Risk Lab.

Ault will present an overview of climate patterns giving rise to year-to-year variations in the timing of North American spring. “I’ll connect these fluctuations in the world’s oceans and atmosphere to the kinds of observations made on the ground by citizen scientists collaborating with the National Phenology Network,” he said.

Viewers can log on to the webinar at https://www.usanpn.org/nn/Webinars.

Ault also will describe his lab’s pilot program on springcasting, which will allow scientists and observers to engage in dialogue about spring “green-up” and “leaf-out” as it happens.

Using historical observations of the timing of leaf-out and bloom in cloned lilacs, honeysuckle and gathering data from nearby weather stations, scientists have been able to determine the weather conditions that precede spring leaf emergence in these plants, as a composite for nature’s “start of spring.” Ault will describe how this springcast work extends to many other species and has direct utility to economic sectors.


Climate change likely to alter NY’s Oneida Lake by 2099

 

A Cornell research boat sits amidst blue-green algae and other growth near the shore of Oneida Lake, which will have a different make-up by 2099 because of climate change.

A Cornell research boat sits amidst blue-green algae and other growth near the shore of Oneida Lake, which will have a different make-up by 2099 because of climate change.

Cornell Chronicle [2015-02-25]

By the end of this century, the temperature of Oneida Lake – New York state’s largest interior lake – will likely be higher by about 6 degrees Fahrenheit. This would be enough to remove oxygen from its bottom waters, alter its species composition and eradicate its remaining cold water fish species, report Cornell researchers in the journal Ecological Modelling.

With an area of about 80 square miles, Oneida serves as the centerpiece of a large watershed. Prevailing west-northwesterly winds cause its shallow waters to mix frequently through the ice-free months. Between mixing events, the lake’s surface water warms and becomes less dense then the colder bottom layers. Large temperature differences between the surface and bottom layers result in strong stratification, and winds are needed to induce mixing.

As the climate changes, the temperature difference between the layers is expected to increase and last longer. By 2099 Oneida Lake could see an additional 61 consecutive days of stratification, according to the researchers’ projections.

Read the whole article.