News & Events

The latest climate change news from Cornell and beyond.


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.

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.