News & Events

The latest climate change news from Cornell and beyond.


Extreme weather challenges Finger Lakes farms

Allison M. Chatrchyan Director, Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture

Allison M. Chatrchyan
Director, Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture

From the Webster N.Y. Post [2014-08-03]:

“…While a certain amount of extreme weather events are to be expected, the frequency and severity of such dramatic events — from floods to drought and from overwhelming heat to bitter cold — present evidence of climate change.

“In New York, the average summer temperature is 2 degrees warmer than in 1970, and the average winter temperature is 4 degrees warmer. The earth is now warmer than it has been during the past several 1,000 years, and the climate models project a continuation of this trend, according to Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture, which facilitates research, education and outreach to reduce the collective impact of agriculture on the climate and help farmers become more resilient to climate change. …

“At Empire Farm Days this coming week, two experts will provide viewpoints and information on the effects of weather and climate on agriculture.
Allison Morrill Chatrchyan, Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture director and faculty fellow with Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, will present ‘Climate Change on Farming in a More Extreme and Variable Climate.’ Josh Nichols, a News 10NBC meteorologist who teaches weather and climate at Monroe Community College, will talk on ‘Weather from the Farmers’ Point of View.’ …

“’No matter what we all do, even if we cut our emissions 50 percent, our climate is still going to change because we put so many chemicals into the atmosphere,’ said Chatrchyan. But helping reduce greenhouse gases by using sustainable methods such as wind and solar power and biogestors, which convert manure into an energy source, are positive steps, she said.”

Read more the whole article.

Ag business is no longer business as usual, says expert

Mike HoffmannVia Cornell Chronicle [2014-07-30]

For Mike Hoffmann, it’s business as unusual: Plant hardiness zones are moving north. Northeast springs are arriving early, summers are hotter, winters are getting warmer, and the region suffers 74 percent more rain events than a half-century ago. And farmers who neglect these emerging climate patterns, caused by warming, could imperil their own livelihoods, he says.

Hoffmann, director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station and associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, discussed these issues July 29 for the Agricultural Working Group of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in Washington, D.C. In 2013 Hoffmann established the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture to communicate climate change adaptation and mitigation measures. The institute is supported by funds from the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture, and Allison Chatrchyan serves as the group’s inaugural director.

The institute will be a clearinghouse for research, climate monitoring, decision-support tools and applications at the intersection of climate and agriculture. It will soon develop a website for disseminating and gathering information on farm-level impacts and trends, losses and gains resulting from warming and extreme weather.

Read the whole article.

Cornell solar farm to produce power in September

From the Ithaca Journal [2014-07-30]:solar array

Cornell University’s solar farm on Snyder Road has sprouted 6,778 panels and is scheduled to start pumping power come September.

Located on 11 acres adjacent to Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport, the solar farm will annually produce 2.5 million kilowatt-hours, enough to power 320 homes a year. The solar farm is Cornell’s first large-scale renewable energy generation project since the hydroelectric plant was constructed in 1904, according to Sustainability Management Specialist Sarah Zemanick.

“I feel like we’re shortchanging Lake Source Cooling, but that’s really more energy conservation, if you think about it. It’s not electricity,” she said.

The project was announced in July 2013 and approved by the Town of Lansing later that fall. In April of this year,when the snow had melted and the mud was at its peak,construction commenced. Trenches were dug so the array could be wired in series, and then the racking, panels and inverters were installed.

Read the whole article.

NYS Climate Smart Communities Webinar Series starts Aug. 14

Topics include:

  • Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing
  • Climate Smart Community Certification
  • Community Energy Options: Combined Heat and Power Plants, and Distributed Generation
  • Community Energy Options: Microgrids and Community Choice Aggregation
  • Best Practices in LED Streetlight Conversions
  • Getting to Net-Zero Homes
  • New York State Department of Transportation’s Flooding Vulnerability Assessment
  • Mobilizing Regional Climate Action
  • Reducing Community Transportation Emissions
  • Implementing Environmental Purchasing Policies

More info.

Wolfe to deliver keynote talk at the University of Buffalo Oct. 10

David Wolfe

David Wolfe

From the University of Buffalo’s Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab:

David W. Wolfe, keynote speaker, presents Climate Change and the Future of Food on October 10th, 2014 at the University of Buffalo.

Dr. David W. Wolfe is Professor of Plant and Soil Ecology in the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University, and a leading authority on climate change impacts on natural ecosystems and food security. He has co-authored several influential reports for policy-makers, such as the 2014 National Climate Assessment sponsored by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. He currently leads a $5 M USDA project focused on new tools for greenhouse gas management in agroecosystems, and contributes to several soil conservation and climate change adaptation projects in the Ethiopia, Malawi, and Tanzania. At Cornell he teaches “Climate Change and the Future of Food” and chairs the Atkinson Center Climate Change Focus Group. He has been featured on National Public Radio and other news media outlets, and is author of the award-winning book on soil ecology for general audiences, Tales From the Underground: A Natural History of Subterranean Life.

Please see details on his talk at UB on October 10th, 2014: Climate Change Flyer.

North Atlantic right whale’s prospects tied to climate

A North Atlantic right whale guides her calf. (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission/NOAA photo.)

A North Atlantic right whale guides her calf. (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission/NOAA photo.)

A pleasant scientific surprise: The North Atlantic right whale population – once projected for extinction – exhibited an unexpected increase in calf production and population size during the past decade.

This baby boom has been linked to a climate-induced shift in the oceanic ecosystem, one that has improved the feeding conditions for the whales in the northwest Atlantic and especially the Gulf of Maine during the decade of the 2000s, according to two Cornell oceanographic researchers.

Relative to the lean reproductive years right whales suffered during the 1990s, the population during the first decade of the 21st century has seen a significant increase in reproduction, report doctoral candidate Erin Meyer-Gutbrod and professor Charles H. Greene in the forthcoming issue of Oceanography (September 2014).

Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2014-06-22]

Global warming culprit-nations likely to change by 2030

Ward and Mahowald

Ward and Mahowald

While developed countries and regions have long been culprits for Earth’s rising greenhouse gas emissions, Cornell researchers – balancing the role of aerosols along with carbons in the equation – now predict a time when developing countries will contribute more to climate change than advanced societies: 2030.

Published in Environmental Research Letters (July 11), the new study was designed to inform international policymakers on the role of aerosols, as opposed to strictly greenhouse gases, when considering climate change mitigation.

“Historically, between 1850 and 2010, the United States and the European Union have contributed the most to Earth’s climate change. But the portion of global surface temperature change from human activities attributable to developing countries is increasing,” said Dan Ward, Cornell postdoctoral researcher and the study’s lead author. Natalie Mahowald, associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, is the senior author.

“In light of all factors, including our understanding of aerosols, we estimate that developing countries will surpass the contribution from developed countries around year 2030,” Ward said.

Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2014-07-16]

Cuomo: New normal of extreme weather is a challenge for government

Tornado damage in Smithfield, N.Y.

Tornado damage in Smithfield, N.Y.

From press release [2014-07-09] from the office of New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today toured storm damage in Central New York following a tornado that touched down Tuesday in Smithfield. In response to the tornado and severe storms that struck the region last night and early this morning, a variety of state agencies are assisting local governments with their recovery efforts.

The Governor also held a briefing to discuss the storm and damage in the surrounding communities at the Smithfield Fire Department in Peterboro.

The Governor’s remarks included:

“… Unfortunately in my three and a half years as Governor I have seen too many disasters, and been in settings like this all too often. Eleven federally declared disasters in three and a half years. There is a pattern of extreme weather that is different. We are seeing things that we have never seen. We see floods where homes that have been dry for a hundred years get hit with floods and get totally destroyed. National Weather Service just confirmed that this was a tornado that went through Madison County. We don’t get tornados in New York, right? Anyone will tell you that. Well we do now.

“This new normal of extreme weather is a challenge for government. It is a challenge for first responders, and it is a challenge for every citizen in this state. We are doing now citizen preparation programs all across the state just for citizens to learn how to be prepared in case, God forbid, there is an emergency like we see all too often, with too much frequency.

“The property damage that we see in Madison County is explosive in its effect when it looks like literally a bomb went off in a house and you just see devastation everywhere. Again, that’s what tornadoes do but we’ve seen those pictures on TV we don’t usually see them in the State of New York. The property damage we can repair, and anything the state can do to be in partnership with the county and the families that have been damaged, we will work with them to rebuild and repair the property damage. Unfortunately there is damage that has been done that no one can repair and no one can replace a tragic loss of life in a wholly random event. … ”

Read Cuomo’s full remarks, listen to audio and view video and images.


Climate change and gardening, farming events

Climate Change and Gardening in New York State
Wednesday, July 30, 6:30-8:30 pm
Tompkins County Cooperative Extension, 615 Willow Ave, Ithaca NY

Wondering how climate change will affect life and gardening in upstate New York? This workshop will introduce you to the Cornell Climate Change website. We will discuss how gardeners can adapt by selecting different plants or varieties, and by devising means to control, store, and deliver water. Fee: $5-$10 self-determined sliding scale. Pre-registration requested to ensure enough handouts. Please call 272-2292 for more information or registration.

Cornell Climate Change Institute, Meteorologist to Present Weather and Farming at Empire Farm Days

What is the one thing people always talk about? The weather. Farmers may be weather watchers more than any other collective group. To accommodate their interest and provide them with a look at trends and how climate is impacting agriculture, Empire Farm Days will host presentations by Allison M. Chatrchyan, director of the new Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture, and WHEC News10NBC Meteorologist Josh Nichols, who also teaches weather and climate at Monroe Community College.

  • Tuesday, August 5 at 10:30am, Dr. Chatrchyan will speak on Farming in a More Extreme and Variable Climate.
  • Wednesday, August 6 at 10:30am, Nichols will present Weather from the Farmers’ Point of View.

Admission to Empire Farm Days and the weather presentations is free. Parking is $10. The event is held on 300 acres of the Rodman Lott and Son Farms in Seneca Falls, NY. Learn more at

Global Climate Change Conversation July 8

A Global Climate Change Conversation
Presentation and Panel Discussion
Observations, Perceptions, and the Reality of Climate Change from Around the World: A Focus on Agriculture and Food Systems

July 8th, 2014
G10 Biotech Building
Open to the Cornell Community

Panel members:

  • Dave Wolfe, Professor, Department of Horticulture, CALS, Cornell University
  • Allison Chatrchyan, Director, Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture
  • John Murphy, Vegetable and Wine Producer, New Zealand
  • Joseph Leonard, Dairy Farmer, Ireland
  • Paul Niven, Dairy Business Manager, Australia
  • Moderator: Mike Hoffmann, Associate Dean, Director, CALS, Cornell University

More information.