News & Events

The latest climate change news from Cornell and beyond.


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

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.

Conference on Teaching Climate Change March 13

Climate Change Exchange
A Conference on Teaching Climate Change in the Catskills

Date: Friday, March 13, 2015, 8 am—2:30 pm
(Snow Date: Saturday, March 14)

Location: Delaware Academy, 2 Sheldon Dr, Delhi, NY

  • Keynote Speakers
  • Workshops
  • Share‐a‐thon
  • Resource Fair
  • Special video message from Bill McKibben
  • Visit Delaware Academy’s solar powered sugar house

Sponsored by

  • Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County
  • The Manhattan Country School
  • Catskill Center for Conservation and Development

Register online:
Or call 607‐865‐6531 / email

More information.

Public warmer on ‘climate change’ than ‘global warming’

Jonathon Schuldt

Jonathon Schuldt

Cornell Chronicle [2015-02-16]:

Stop someone on the street in the storm-battered Northeast (or Northwest or just about anywhere in between) this winter. Ask about “global warming” and you’d better be prepared for a heated debate. Ask about “climate change” and cooler heads may prevail.

The American public responds differently to questions about “climate change” and “global warming” – even while the media often conflate the two – a new study by Cornell and University of Southern California researchers reveals.

“A key finding is that the public perceives more scientific agreement on the issue of ‘climate change’ than ‘global warming,’” reports Cornell’s Jonathon Schuldt, who led the study examining a survey of 2,000 American adults from the comfort of his Department of Communication office (not from a snow-covered street corner). “Recent studies suggest that perceiving a scientific consensus is an important predictor of people’s support for new regulations that address the problem.”

Read the whole article.

‘Megadrought’ likely for western U.S. by end of century

Cornell Chronicle [2015-02-15]:

The consequences of climate change paint a bleak picture for the Southwest and much of America’s breadbasket, the Great Plains. A “megadrought” likely will occur late in this century, and it could last for three decades, according to a new report by Cornell and NASA researchers in the journal Science Advances (Feb. 12), an online publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“The results were striking. As a society, we’ve weighted the dice toward megadrought. Data clearly point to a high risk in the Southwest and Great Plains, as we continue to add carbon dioxide into our atmosphere,” said Toby Ault, Cornell associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences. “However, if we manage to get serious about lowering greenhouse gases within the next 10 years, we could face a lower risk.”

With a drier future and higher regional temperatures amplifying possible late-century droughts, the situation presents a major adaptation challenge for managing the region’s water needs, explains Ault, who along with lead author Benjamin Cook and Jason Smerdon, both of NASA, published their new study, “Unprecedented 21st Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains Drought Risk in Western North America.”

Read the whole article.

In the news

 The future looks bright: In a winning effort, the Big Red men's hockey team scores against Harvard Jan. 23, under the new LED lights at Lynah Rink. (Photo: Patrick Shanahan/Cornell Athletics)

The future looks bright: In a winning effort, the Big Red men’s hockey team scores against Harvard Jan. 23, under the new LED lights at Lynah Rink.(Photo: Patrick Shanahan/Cornell Athletics)

New LED lights illuminate sports venues’ vibrancy [Cornell Chronicle 2015-01-29] – To fend off climate change and help to sustain the Earth, this is a slam dunk: the Department of Athletics and Physical Education has begun to install new LED lights at all campus athletic facilities including Lynah Rink, Bartels Hall, Newman Arena, the Friedman Wrestling Center and the Oxley Equestrian Center.

Video: CO2 at the Top of the World [CornellCast 2015-01-29] – Charles Greene and Dr. M. Sanjayan visit the carbon dioxide measuring station in Mauna Loa, Hawaii on the Showtime series about climate change, ‘Years of Living Dangerously.’ Greene is a professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell.

How climate change is already affecting Cayuga County wineries [Auburn Citizen 2015-02-02] – Hans Walter-Peterson, team leader and viticulture extension specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Finger Lakes Grape Program, said the number of growing degree days — a measure of heat accumulation — has been steady until 2000, at which point it goes up “like a hockey stick.”

Queen Elizabeth to honor student for climate change work [Cornell Chronicle 2015-02-05] – Shamir Shehab, MPA ’16, is one of 60 exceptional community leaders chosen from across the British Commonwealth to receive the Queen’s Young Leaders Award, which recognizes young people ages 18-29 who work to support others, raise awareness and inspire change on issues including education, climate change, gender and disability equality, and mental health.

Upcoming seminars

Atmospheric Circulation and Surface Climate Response to Projected Arctic Sea Ice Loss
Dr. Lantao Sun from the National Center for Atmospheric Research
Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Seminar
Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 3:30pm to 4:30pm, 2146 Snee Hall
Refreshments will be served at 3:00pm in the Snee Hall Atrium.

How can agricultural and forest scientists contribute to national policy regarding air quality and greenhouse gas emissions? Three stories from the front lines
Peter Woodbury, Soil and Crop Sciences Section, Cornell University
School of Integrative Plant Science, Soil and Crop Sciences Section Seminar Series
Thursday, February 12, 2015, 12:20-1:10, 135 Emerson Hall

Skorton speeds campus carbon neutrality goal to 2035

David Skorton

David Skorton

Cornell Chronicle [2015-01-29]:

Cornell President David Skorton today released the report of the Climate Action Plan Acceleration Working Group (AWG), which recommends actions the campus should take to become carbon neutral by 2035.

“Nearly eight years ago, in response to the growing challenge of global climate change, I signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, pledging that Cornell would develop a plan to achieve climate neutrality, starting on our Ithaca campus, by 2050,” said Skorton in a statement. “Today, I again formally recognize the need to accelerate our efforts by embracing the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2035.”

Skorton explained that his decision to hasten the date was advocated by a December 2013 Cornell Faculty Senate resolution that called for an accelerated timetable to achieve campus carbon neutrality.

Read the whole article.