CIRCA in the News
July 16, 2015 - Climate Change Poses Risks for Amtrak's Already Vulnerable Eastern Connecticut Rail Line, CT Mirror | Jan Ellen Spiegel
...In neighboring Stonington, with its own long stretches of low-lying track from the Mystic to the Pawcatuck Rivers, there is a new climate change task force coming up with recommendations to address climate change and sea-level rise generally. Mystic, and especially its historic section, is particularly susceptible to flooding, said Keith Brynes, who's been town planner for 10 years.
But the rail line itself: "It's such a big issue that there's no clear solution to it at this point," he said, noting that some of the track is slightly elevated, but probably still lower than FEMA's designated flood elevation. "What do you do? Do you keep it in place and raise it up somehow, or do you completely relocate it somewhere else?" he asked. "That would be a huge question."
And Rob Klee, commissioner of energy and environmental protection, whose department is responsible for issuing waivers for stations built or upgraded in flood zones, hesitated before offering a "might be" when asked if there were places where the rail line needed to be moved or elevated.
"In the post-Sandy/Irene world, it's all now much more a part of the conversation," he said. "The challenge obviously is - so your alternative is what? Moving the corridor is not an easy or inexpensive undertaking either. There's always this cost benefit. Can you build it up? Can you raise it up? Or at some point are you just throwing sand against the tide?"
"Can you build it up? Can you raise it up? Or at some point are you just throwing sand against the tide?"-- Rob Klee; Commissioner of energy and environmental protection
Klee said the emphasis right now is on finding creative ways to help lessen the impact of water coming both from Long Island Sound and inland, something he and others believe is equally, if not more, threatening. In addition to making tracks and stations inaccessible, water can also cause more erosion, undermining track embankments, bridges and other structures.
Ideas for mitigating flooding include so-called green infrastructure, designed to soak up water and put it where it does less harm, and offshore solutions such as artificial reefs to diminish flow and intensity when the water does hit land.
DEEP is working with the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation, CIRCA, the new climate center it runs jointly with the University of Connecticut.
"It's an important question about what should you do," said James O'Donnell, CIRCA's executive director. "We could engineer any kind of structure we want along the shoreline. It's a matter of cost. There's a financial cost, and then there's an environmental cost," he said, also citing the social cost when people use a rail line to get to work with no alternative. "It's a critical element of a resilient community is to have a transportation network that is going to work when you need it.
"It's not automatic to me that you should just continue reinvesting in this," he said of the rail line. ...
July 29, 2015 - The Condition of Connecticut's Coastline and Beaches, wnpr Connecticut | Josh Nilaya
It's the middle of summer and for those lucky enough to live in a coastal state, like us here in Connecticut, that means it's beach time! Whether you're looking for an inexpensive outing with the family, to catch a tan, or simply to get away from the daily grind, beaches offer it all.
But what actually goes into making beaches so well-suited for summer fun? Aside from the coastal cleanup many of us remember after super storms Sandy and Irene, those in charge of our coastline must also contend with water pollution and bacteria levels, public and private access issues, funding for maintenance and facility upkeep, and even keeping enough sand on the shore to call a beach, a beach.
And if that's not enough, climate change is now creating even more problems for our coastline. According to some estimates, sea levels could rise by up to two meters by the end of the century -- an event that would put coastal cities like Bridgeport, New Haven, and New London as well as major transportation routes at risk for huge damages.
What is being done to keep our coastline intact and beach goers safe?
Robert Klee- Commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP)
James Tait- Professor of Science Education and Environmental Studies at Southern Connecticut State University and co-coordinator at the Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies Jennifer O'donnell- CEO of Coastal Ocean Analytics and a Professor at Uconn's Department of Marine Sciences
Local and State New Clips
July 21, 2015 - Foundation adds $64 million to 'resilient cities' work, ctpost
NEW YORK (AP) - The Rockefeller Foundation is adding $64 million more to an already $100 million initiative that recognizes cities for their ideas on physical, social and economic resilience.
Foundation President Judith Rodin made the announcement Tuesday while launching the third and final round of the New York-based charity's "100 Resilient Cities" contest.
Sixty-seven cities have been named over the last two years. They range from Accra, Ghana, to Wellington, New Zealand.
The foundation finances a "chief resilience officer" position for each city to address challenges that could range from flooding threats to strains on health systems. The cities also get technical help planning and implementing their strategies.
The idea is that the 100 eventual winners will become models for other cities.
Overall, the foundation has dedicated $500 million to various resilience efforts.
National News Clips
July 31, 2015 - How the Pentagon is preparing for climate change in each part of the world, Washington Post | Dan Lamothe
The Pentagon made the case Wednesday that the locations in the world most prone to instability and bloodshed also are the ones where climate change has the greatest impact, and laid out details about how top regional commanders are preparing for it.
A report required by Congress covers a variety of climate issues affecting the military, noting how rising seas and severe weather can impact missions. But it also provides little-known details about how each geographic combatant command - a COCOM, in military-speak - is addressing climate change in the part of the world where they oversee operations.
"The National Security Strategy, issued in February 2015, is clear that climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources such as food and water," the report said. "These impacts are already occurring, and the scope, scale, and intensity of these impacts are projected to increase over time."
In one specific example, U.S. European Command is preparing for more tourism and commerce in the Northern Sea Route, which runs through the Arctic along Russia's northern coast, the report said. The document specifically mentions a planned trip next year by the cruise ship Crystal Serenity through the notorious Northwest Passage, which runs from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans and has previously trapped ships in ice. Northern Command, which includes Canada and the United States, has similar concerns about increased traffic in the area, and the risks that will ensue.
July 31, 2015 - Major S.F. Bayfront Developments Advance Despite Sea Rise Warnings, San Francisco Public Press | Kevin Stark, Winifred Bird and Michael Stoll
Builders plan to invest more than $21 billion in offices and homes in flood-prone areas, where waters could climb 8 feet above today's high tide by the end of this century.
Like every body of water that opens onto a global ocean, San Francisco Bay is virtually guaranteed to rise several feet in coming decades, climate scientists say. But that has not deterred real estate developers from proposing and building billions of dollars worth of new homes and offices in bayfront areas that current climate change predictions show could flood by century's end.
Land-use records and environmental applications reveal that the building boom, fueled by a white-hot tech economy, is moving too fast for regulators to keep pace. Most cities and regional agencies have not yet adopted tools to address flooding in areas where thousands of acres are threatened by sea level rise.
Developers say they have engineering and financial solutions to deal with any reasonable future flooding risk. But critics, including climate scientists, urban planners and environmental activists, say the current wave of construction might leave taxpayers on the hook for enormously expensive emergency protections and repairs.
July 27, 2015 - Florida leads nation in property at risk from climate change, Miami Herald
Florida has more private property at risk from flooding linked to climate change than any other state, an amount that could double in the next four decades, according to a new report by the Risky Business Project. By 2030, $69 billion in coastal property in Florida could flood at high tide that is not at risk today, the report found. That amount is projected to climb to $152 billion by 2050.
While projections for rising seas are not new, for the first time researchers tried to quantify the economic damage wrought by climate change by better understanding the risks to business and a rebounding economy. Growth in manufacturing and energy production have created a mini boom in the Southeast and Texas, the report said. But climate change threatens to undo that progress and cause widespread damage to the region's economic pillars: manufacturing, agriculture and energy.
For Florida, the blows are significant and not only for property. Higher temperatures and rising seas could slow labor productivity, stress the energy industry and dry up cash pumped into the state by tourists.
"The sea-rise numbers are out there. The heat numbers are out there. What this study has done for the first time is really look at this from a business perspective," former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who co-chaired the project, said in an interview with the Miami Herald.
July 27, 2015 - Warming Planet May Double Odds of New York Flooding, Study Says, Bloomberg | Alex Nussbaum
New York's odds of being flooded by a one-two punch of extreme rain and surging seas have more than doubled in the past 80 years, a change scientists say may be linked to global warming. The number of so-called compound flooding events -- combining heavy precipitation and a high storm surge -- have "increased significantly" for much of the coastal U.S., affecting cities from New York and San Francisco to Boston and Galveston, Texas, researchers said in a paper published Monday by the journal Nature Climate Change.
Researchers found an increased connection between storm surges and high precipitation, phenomena that forecasters and urban planners often treat as independent events when preparing for storms, said lead author Thomas Wahl. How much of the change is due to global warming or natural variation is unclear, but the data suggest policy makers should reconsider where they build infrastructure and how flood zones are drawn, Wahl said by telephone.
"Cities need to come up with revised methods" of planning for floods, said Wahl, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. "The actual impact of these compound events depends very much on the local situation: what infrastructure is in place, how much drainage is available."
July 27, 2015 - Rain, Storm Surge Combine to Put U.S Coasts at Risk, Climate Central | Andrea Thompson
After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleanians thought they knew what areas were susceptible to flooding during a storm. So when Hurricane Isaac, a much weaker storm than Katrina, bore down on the city in 2012, those who live to the west of Lake Pontchartrain weren't worried, as they had been spared the raging waters that inundated so much of the city during Katrina.
But Isaac turned out to be the perfect storm for that area. The surge that Isaac pushed ahead of it raised lake levels by 6 to 9 feet, and they stayed elevated for an unusually long time. At the same time, the area around the lake saw 11 or more inches of rain from the storm. Because the lake levels were so high, there was nowhere for the rainwater to drain, and so water flooded the streets and houses to the west of the lake.
"Many people were caught off guard," Hal Needham, a storm surge scientist at Louisiana State University said, and thousands had to be rescued from the rising waters. It turns out that many more coastal residents are at threat from the meteorological double whammy of freshwater flooding and storm surge, which a new study finds is a serious threat for large stretches of U.S. coast.
That one-two punch - called compound flooding -- isn't something that many places in the U.S. plan for, however, as studies of risk tend to look at one danger or the other, Needham said. And global warming-driven sea level rise exacerbates the problem even further.
July 24, 2015 - Sea Levels Might Be Rising Much Faster Than Expected. What Should New York Do to Avoid Being Swamped?, New York Magazine
When climate scientist James Hansen informed the world this week that the seas could rise much faster than conventional wisdom conceived, his predictions conjured apocalyptic images of submerged coastal cities and waters lapping at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. The current international target of containing global warming to a two-degree (Celsius) rise in average atmospheric temperature would be "highly dangerous," he and 16 colleagues warn in a paper that was controversial even before its publication.
Even modest warming might cause sea levels to rise ten feet in coming decades, three times the accepted maximum. It could trigger higher tides, tougher storms, and longer droughts than anyone anticipated. Vulnerable cities could get wiped away. In New York, the floodplain would spread, putting hundreds of thousands of people in the way of potentially deadly waves. New buildings constructed to an obsolete code and raised above levels once considered safe might find themselves threatened after all.
It will take some time for scientists to assess that volley of pessimism, but in the meantime it's good to know that at least the New York region is actually doing something to prepare for a watery future. The question is, if Hansen is right, is it doing enough?
July 24, 2015 - Hastily deployed sensors before Superstorm Sandy helped U.S. agencies pinpoint massive damage, ClimateWire | Benjamin Hulac
In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the second most costly hurricane to thrash the United States since 1900 and the largest Atlantic storm recorded, a preliminary report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put the total bill at $50 billion and the minimum death toll at 147.
Sandy, with its "tremendous size," churned ocean waters and winds in a 1,000-mile-wide swath and "drove a catastrophic storm surge into the New Jersey and New York coastline," experts from the National Hurricane Center wrote in February 2013, four months after the storm.
A new report on the storm tides, flooding and damage in New York from the U.S. Geological Survey provides a more granular look.
Of New York City's five boroughs, Brooklyn, or Kings County, suffered the brunt of the storm's infrastructure damage, incurring an estimated $5.9 billion in building losses. Manhattan ($3.1 billion), Queens ($2.8 billion), Staten Island ($1.6 billion) and the Bronx ($440 million) experienced less building damage, according to USGS estimates. Through estuaries north of the city, up the Hudson River, the storm even triggered overflow sensors about 160 miles upriver in Troy, N.Y.
USGS scientists, with the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and spearheaded by Christopher Schubert, a hydrologist and the report's lead author, measured storm tide damage and flooding penetration with data from hundreds of sensors installed up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
"We looked at how estimates of building damage change depending on the amount of information available at the time of the estimate," Schubert said. He and his peers studied sensor data at three points: when the storm hit, two weeks later and three months after Sandy.
July 22, 2015 - James Hansen's upcoming paper forecasts catastrophic sea-level rise, intense storms, ClimateWire | Malavika Vyawahare & Christa Marshall
James Hansen, the former NASA scientist who has stirred the public with both his early climate change warnings and political activism, is the lead author of new research that projects more dire scenarios for sea-level rise and ice melt than currently reported by many studies and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The work will be published later this week in an open access journal, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussion, and will be subject to public peer review, but initial reactions from scientists who reviewed the work underscore that Hansen and his team likely will face some skepticism.
The paper -- which was reviewed by ClimateWire -- argues that the common international goal of capping warming at 2 degrees Celsius will have "highly dangerous" consequences, including the "likely" result of several meters of sea-level rise. The research concludes that Earth will lose ice from Greenland and Antarctica -- key contributors to sea-level rise -- much more rapidly than projected by many scientists. The doubling time, or the time it would take for the amount of ice loss from ice sheets to double, could happen as quickly as 10 years and lead to a sea-level rise of several meters in about 50 years, according to their research. It also forecasts more intense storm systems.
"A 2 degree Celsius global warming (that has been identified as an international target to limit global warming) it is not a safe limit ... as it can be associated to a much larger sea level rise than predicted by models," said study co-author Isabella Velicogna, an assistant professor of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine, in an email. "Modern observations show that the ice sheets are melting into the ocean (and raising sea level) at a rate much faster than we expected."
The paper's estimates for sea-level rise are higher than those put forward by the 2013 report of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which said that sea levels could rise by about 1 meter by 2100.
The paper points to heat accumulation in the oceans as a key factor for the rapid future erosion of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland. In their modelling, the team factored in additional fresh water being released into the oceans because of melting of glacial ice and concluded the added cool fresh water could potentially accelerate ice sheet melting by forcing warmer water under the ice.
If a business-as-usual path is followed, the study warns, coastal cities and low-lying areas such as Bangladesh, European lowlands and large portions of the United States' East Coast and northeast China plains would be left highly vulnerable to rapidly rising sea levels and intense storms.
The study relies on the work of 16 authors apart from Hansen, including researchers who previously found that glacial melt from West Antarctica could reach irreversible levels. Last year a paper in Geophysical Research Letters concluded that West Antarctica glaciers are headed to eventual "irreversible" collapse (ClimateWire, May 13). Hansen, who was a NASA scientist when he gave congressional testimony in 1988 on climate change, joined Columbia University's Earth Institute as an adjunct professor after he left NASA.
But by the time he left the agency in 2013, his turn toward advocacy had alienated him from some in the scientific community. Hansen has over the years openly participated in protests against fossil fuels and been arrested on several occasions. In 2011 before being arrested at the White House, he urged Obama to show he is not a "hopeless addict" to oil by rejecting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline (ClimateWire, Aug. 26, 2011).
The current paper sometimes strikes a similar note, saying there is not a "morally defensible excuse" to delay the phaseout of fossil fuels.
Several scientists who reviewed the study offered mixed reviews.
"The article serves as a sobering wakeup call to those who still dispute the threat posed by our ongoing burning of fossil fuels," said Michael Mann, a climatologist at Pennsylvania State University in an email, noting the conclusions about future West Antarctic ice sheet collapse. "I think the authors have done a real service to the scientific discourse by putting forward some interesting and provocative ideas and by having done so in an open-format journal which encourages discussion and interaction between experts in the field."
At the same time, he said he was skeptical about some of the details, such as the idea of a global cooling in 2100 as a result of a shutdown of the "conveyer belt" ocean circulation pattern because of large amounts of meltwater from Greenland and Antarctica. The paper's scenario -- which assumes exponentially increasing meltwater over time -- "may not be realistic," according to Mann. It also is based on modeling that does not resolve real-world ocean currents like the Gulf Stream, he said.
Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Pennsylvania State University, also said some of the results are "suspect" because the modeling was coarse, even though they are likely to prompt more research. For the broader public, the biggest value may be highlighting the unknowns about sea-level rise and that the most-likely IPCC sea-level rise estimate falls on the optimistic side, he indicated.
"When we look at the costs of sea-level rise caused by the warming we have caused and might cause ... there is a central estimate, and the costs might be a bit less or a bit more, but with very little chance of being a lot less and some chance of being a whole lot more," he said.
August 28, 2015 - FY15 FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grants ProgramAnnounced. Applications due 8/28/15
Both Hazard Mitigation Assistance FY 2015 Funding Opportunity Announcements can be found at
www.grants.gov, and PDF versions are attached to this advisory. Eligible applicants must apply for funding through the Mitigation eGrants system on the FEMA Grants Portal accessible at https://portal.fema.gov.
FEMA will open the application period on May 29, 2015. All applications must be submitted no later than 3:00 PM EDT on August 28, 2015. Further information on these grant programs is available at
September 17, 2015 - Climate Change and Sustainability: Practical Solutions for your Municipality
When: Thursday September 17, 2015; 9am-4pm
Where: Middlesex Community College Middletown, CT
Learn from your peers, connect with tools and resources. Hear municipal success stories
If you have any suggestions of great success stories to include in the forum or would like more information. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
December 1- 2, 2015 - Living Shorelines: Sound Science, Innovative Approaches, Connected Community 1st National Technology Transfer Meeting and Regional Workshops
When: December 1-2 2015
Where: Hilton Hartford Hartford, CT
Restore America's Estuaries, in partnership with the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation, is pleased to announce a first-of-its-kind living shorelines event! This Summit - Living Shorelines: Sound Science, Innovative Approaches, Connected Community - will feature nationally-relevant issues and discussions along with region-specific workshops.
Whether you call them "soft shorelines," "living shorelines," "soft armoring," or "soft stabilization projects," you belong at this gathering!
Why should you attend?
Sound Science: Get the latest updates on all aspects of current research and ongoing science.
Innovative Approaches: Find out what your colleagues are doing, hear lessons learned, discover the latest funding and financing opportunities, and learn ways to make your own projects and programs more effective.
Connected Community: Network with people from all aspects of the community to catch up with colleagues and make new connections.
Join us at the Hilton Hartford, a fantastic location that provides excellent and cost-minded travel options. It is located just 15 minutes from Bradley International Airport and conveniently situated at the intersection of I-84 and I-91.The sleeping room rate for attendees participating in the room block is $116 per night plus tax.
We look forward to seeing you!
Contact Jeff Benoit - email@example.com
Any Questions? Contact Suzanne Simon - firstname.lastname@example.org