News & Events

The latest climate change news from Cornell and beyond.


Climate change movie screening Sept. 26

From Jonathan Comstock, research support specialist (Wolfe Lab):

The Resilient Onesposter

Reception and Film Screening
Warren Hall B25, Cornell University
2:30 – 4:00, Friday, Sept. 26th

The hour-long film, starting at 3pm, will be preceded by a reception with refreshments in the foyer. Meet with filmmakers Victor Guadagno and Jon Erickson. The film will also be followed by Q&A with filmmakers and local individuals featured in the film.


In August of 2011, Tropical Storm Irene ripped through the Adirondack Mountains of Northern New York, upending lives and communities, and reminding us of the ecological foundation of our economic well-being. Irene was a wake-up call, exposing vulnerabilities of inland communities and sounding a call to action.

In the aftermath of the storm, a group of high school students take us on a journey through the region to meet local leaders and innovators. Cody Bary, Erin Weaver, and Gina Fiorile serve as our guides to understanding both short-term strategies for adapting to extreme weather and long-term solutions to reducing carbon emissions.

The Resilient Ones explores the complex social transitions necessary to navigate this new era in human history.

In addition to the high school students that the film follows, a host of experts are interviewed including: Jerry Jenkins, Wildlife Conservation Society, Jonathan Comstock, Research Support Specialist, Cornell University; Ian Shapiro, Founder of TAITEM Engineering, Ithaca, NY; and Ken Mudge, Dept. of Horticulture, Cornell University.

More information, trailers, etc. at The Resilient Ones movie website.

Event poster.

If you can’t make the on-campus screening, there will be a second screening in Ithaca on Saturday:

Saturday, Sept. 27th, 7:30 p.m.
Lehman Alternative Community School
Black Box Theater
111 Chestnut Street, Ithaca
55 min. run time and Q&A with Filmmaker Victor Guadagno and individuals featured in the film immediately following.

Cornellians march in NYC to fight climate change

Cornell students join scientists, teachers, celebrities and members of Congress to protest climate change and injustice at the People's Climate March Sept. 21 in New York City. (Photo: Bruce Monger)

Cornell students join scientists, teachers, celebrities and members of Congress to protest climate change and injustice at the People’s Climate March Sept. 21 in New York City. (Photo: Bruce Monger)

At 5:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 21, more than 130 Cornellians boarded buses with posters and optimism to join 400,000 individuals participating in the People’s Climate March in New York City.

The march drew individuals from all over the world who came together to call on international leaders to commit to combatting climate change at the Sept. 23 United Nations Climate Summit. There, “representatives will discuss climate policies for their home countries and a possible global agreement,” said Emma Johnston ’16, Student Assembly Environmental Task Force chair. “People gathered to advocate for stronger action by world leaders to mitigate the harmful impacts of anthropocentric climate change will have on people and the environment.”

The march was the largest climate march in history. Cole Norgaarden ’17, an organizer who recruited and mobilized Cornell students, said: “I think everyone there was surprised by the attendance. NYPD anticipated 40,000, but 400,000 actually showed up.”

Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2014-09-23]

NYS Report Updates Potential Climate Changes in New York

nyserda logoNew York State Energy Research and Development Authority has released updated projections of climate changes in New York State – changes that are already affecting the state and will likely result in greater impacts on flooding, agriculture, winter tourism, and many other areas in the future.

This update uses the latest generation of climate models and methods to determine potential changes to New York State’s climate as a result of increasing greenhouse gas emissions. The results reinforce the importance of preparing New York for the realities of a changing climate.

As the understanding of climate science improves, it is important to re-evaluate the expected changes to New York State’s climate on a regular basis, to ensure that our responses remain relevant, effective, and based on the most up-to-date science.

Released in 2011, “Responding to Climate Change in New York State: The ClimAID Integrated Assessment for Effective Climate Change Adaptation” is a 600-page report that presents the projected changes in climate for seven geographic regions of the state, ranging from the coasts of Long Island to the mountains of the Adirondacks and the farms of Western New York.

This 2014 update to the climate chapter of the original report presents refined projections for the seven regions based on additional and newer models, updated methods and science, and new emissions scenarios. The study fine-tunes projections for variables such as sea level rise and extreme events like downpours and heat waves. This update also extends the projections through 2100.

The new climate projections for New York State use methods developed by the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) to provide updated climate information for the City following Hurricane Sandy. The climate projections for Region 4 (New York City and Long Island) in this update report were created as part of the NPCC process. The interactions between the City and State are illustrative of the cross-scale linkages that are essential to building climate resilience.

The original ClimAID report also detailed the potential impacts of these changes on eight sectors across the state: water resources, coastal zones, ecosystems, agriculture, energy, transportation, telecommunications and public health, as well as steps that government, businesses, and private citizens can take to adapt to those impacts.

In general, the updated study confirmed and refined previous projections:

• Sea level could rise significantly, permanently flooding some areas and increasing the likelihood of damage to coastal infrastructure from storm surge, including roads and bridges.
• Inland and upstate, heavy downpours and subsequent flooding are expected to increase. In the winter, more rainstorms in place of snow are expected.
• While winters will be milder, summers are expected to see more extreme and longer heat waves, with more droughts as well.

The climate projections update to the original report was conducted by Columbia University researchers, with input from Cornell University and Hunter College at the City University of New York. NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and NOAA Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast scientists also contributed to the work.

A copy of the study, as well as other climate research documents, is available at The NPCC2 draft projections for New York City can be found at

Seminar: Characterizing Uncertainty in Climate Change from Global to Regional Scales

Chris Forest

Chris Forest

Environmental & Water Resources Distinguished Speaker Series
Thursday, September 25, 4:30-5:30pm, 366 Hollister Hall

Characterizing Uncertainty in Climate Change from Global to Regional Scales

Chris E. Forest
Associate Professor of Climate Dynamics
Department of Meteorology
Penn State University

Uncertainty in regional climate predictions is a critical component of understanding risks of future climate impacts. Unfortunately, while state of the science Earth System Models show consistency with observations at global and hemispheric scales, they fail to show significant skill reproducing climate change at sub-continental and smaller scales (i.e., regional scales) despite their ability detect and attribute climate change at global to continental scales. Large internal climate variability is one reason for this lack of skill although when forced by historical tropical sea surface temperature (SST) patterns, atmospheric general circulation models (AGCMs) show reasonable skill at reproducing regional climate change over continents. In this talk, we investigate how multiple AGCMs respond over continents to idealized SST anomaly patterns and define a global teleconnection operator (GTO) as a tool for investigating regional climate sensitivities of individual models. This GTO permits identifying a component of internal climate variability that is forced by SST variability and also evaluating how AGCMs differ in their idealized regional responses. The implications for the general predictions of global to regional climate change will be discussed given these results.

New solar farm flips switch

Local science teachers tour the Cornell Snyder Road Solar Farm in late July, learning how the generated electricity will be loaded onto the regional power grid. (Photo: Jason Koski/University Photography)

Local science teachers tour the Cornell Snyder Road Solar Farm in late July, learning how the generated electricity will be loaded onto the regional power grid. (Photo: Jason Koski/University Photography)

Procuring the sun’s vital energy, Cornell has electrifying news: The Cornell Snyder Road Solar Farm – teeming with 6,778 freshly installed photovoltaic panels on an 11-acre plot that adjoins the Tompkins County Regional Airport – is set to go live Sept. 19.

Annually, the 2-megawatt array will produce about 2.5 million kilowatt hours – 1 percent of Cornell’s total electricity use; that’s enough to power 320 homes for a year. It also will reduce the university’s greenhouse gas emissions by 650 metric tons.

“Cornell’s investment in the solar farm is one more step in realizing our Climate Action Plan goal of zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner,” said KyuJung Whang, vice president for facilities services. “Gov. Andrew Cuomo has established a goal to make New York a leader in solar development, and Cornell strives to set an example for the region and the state by reducing our carbon footprint.”

Read the whole article [Cornell Chronicle 2014-0918].

Accelerated climate neutrality proposal presented to faculty

Brian Chabot

Brian Chabot

At the Sept. 10 Faculty Senate meeting, the Climate Neutrality Acceleration Working Group presented its proposal to change the university’s climate neutrality target date to 2035 from 2050.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Mike Hoffmann, associate dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Brian Chabot, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology; Todd Cowen, professor of civil and environmental engineering; and Katherine McComas, chair of the Department of Communication, shared ideas that have been presented to Cornell President David Skorton.

The group outlined first-step priorities for the next year to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. The report will be presented to the college deans, as well as to the Cornell University Board of Trustees, which will hear a presentation in October. The Climate Neutrality Acceleration Working Group will continue to assess the viability of changing the target date until mid-2015, when the new date may be folded into an updated Climate Action Plan.

Read the whole article [Cornell Chronicle 2014-09-11]

Dairy systems, climate adaptation conference coming July 29-31 2015

call for papers flyerUpdate [2015-04-26]: Registration now open. More information.

Dairy Environmental Systems and Climate Adaptation Conference and Tours
July 29-31 2015
Finger Lakes Region, New York State
Paper proposals due November 1, 2014

This 3-day regional conference and trade show will feature a unique opportunity to learn about emerging dairy housing and manure management systems in conjunction with regional climate trends and adaptation strategies for the Northeast and upper mid-west U.S, and to visit the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York. The conference will feature multiple tour options showcasing on-farm integrated waste handling/treatment systems and on-farm climate adaptation strategies. The synergistic nature of these two topic areas is sure to expose creative solutions to the most pressing of today’s dairy environmental challenges. Tours of interest will also be organized for spouses and families.

Target Audiences:
Dairy producers and their advisors, extension educators, agribusiness professionals, dairy scientists, agricultural and environmental engineers, farm managers, financial advisors and lenders, agricultural economists, policymakers and regulatory agencies.

Conference Goals:
The main goals are to equip attendees with state-of-the-art knowledge on manure handling systems and climate adaptation strategies, as well as to explore the intrinsic connection between climate trends for the Northeastern U.S., on-farm adaptation strategies, and related dairy environmental management issues. A desired outcome is to facilitate the decision-making process for farmers with regards to climate adaptation. In addition, it is expected that both farm and non-farm audiences will be better enabled to understand and support emerging dairy environmental technologies in order to en-hance farms’ economic and environmental sustainability.

More information:

Co-hosted and -organized by:

Cornell organizing for NYC People’s Climate March Sept. 21

nyc climate event graphic

The Center for Transformation, KyotoNOW!, the Sustainability Hub and the Protestant Cooperative Ministry at Cornell are organizing a bus from the Cornell campus to NYC for the People’s Climate March on Sunday, September 21st.

Any questions? Contact Taryn Mattice at

More information and tickets for the Cornell bus.

The student ticket price is $20, and a limited number of tickets for Cornell faculty, staff and their families are available for $35.

We anticipate a possible waiting list and ask that you purchase your ticket by Sunday, September 14.

Other options for transportation from around the country.

Tickets for a separate Ithaca community bus.

Study: Southwest may face ‘megadrought’ within century


Toby Ault

Toby Ault

Via the Cornell Chronicle [2014-08-25]:

Due to global warming, scientists say, the chances of the southwestern United States experiencing a decadelong drought is at least 50 percent, and the chances of a “megadrought” – one that lasts up to 35 years – ranges from 20 to 50 percent over the next century.

The study by Cornell, University of Arizona and U.S. Geological Survey researchers will be published in a forthcoming issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate.

“For the southwestern U.S., I’m not optimistic about avoiding real megadroughts,” said Toby Ault, Cornell assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and lead author of the paper. “As we add greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – and we haven’t put the brakes on stopping this – we are weighting the dice for megadrought.”

Read the whole article.

2030 could be ‘cross-over year’ for climate change responsibility


Natalie Mahowald

Natalie Mahowald

Via Environmental Research Web [2014-08-20]:

When it comes to climate change, which countries are the biggest sinners? Who is responsible for the most warming to date, and which countries will contribute most in the future? A comprehensive study, which includes the impact of short-lived greenhouse gases and aerosols, plus land-use change, confirms that the US and the European Union (EU) are responsible for the largest portion of climate change to date. However, developing countries are catching up fast – the study projects that by 2030 developing countries will contribute more than developed countries, with China topping the rankings later this century.

Working out who is responsible for climate change is important if we wish to share the cost of mitigation and adaptation strategies fairly. But calculating each country’s contribution over time is no easy task. Previous calculations have included the effect of greenhouse gases and sulphate aerosols, but until now no-one had taken into account the full spectrum of short-lived gases and aerosols, ozone precursors and land-use change.

Now Daniel Ward and Natalie Mahowald, both from Cornell University, US, have created the most comprehensive rankings of climate change responsibility to date. To do this, they computed the radiative forcing from long- and short-lived greenhouse gases as well as the full spectrum of aerosols and albedo variations from land-use change. Using a simple climate model the pair worked out the proportion of temperature change that each country was responsible for, from 1850 through to the present day. They also employed two different emissions scenarios to estimate the temperature change each country would be responsible for up to the year 2100.

Read the whole article.