EURO-CORDEX: new high-resolution climate change projections for European impact research
Source: Regional Environmental Change
A new high-resolution regional climate change ensemble has been established for Europe within the World Climate Research Program Coordinated Regional Downscaling Experiment (EURO-CORDEX) initiative. The first set of simulations with a horizontal resolution of 12.5 km was completed for the new emission scenarios RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 with more simulations expected to follow. The aim of this paper is to present this data set to the different communities active in regional climate modelling, impact assessment and adaptation. The EURO-CORDEX ensemble results have been compared to the SRES A1B simulation results achieved within the ENSEMBLES project. The large-scale patterns of changes in mean temperature and precipitation are similar in all three scenarios, but they differ in regional details, which can partly be related to the higher resolution in EURO-CORDEX. The results strengthen those obtained in ENSEMBLES, but need further investigations. The analysis of impact indices shows that for RCP8.5, there is a substantially larger change projected for temperature-based indices than for RCP4.5. The difference is less pronounced for precipitation-based indices. Two effects of the increased resolution can be regarded as an added value of regional climate simulations. Regional climate model simulations provide higher daily precipitation intensities, which are completely missing in the global climate model simulations, and they provide a significantly different climate change of daily precipitation intensities resulting in a smoother shift from weak to moderate and high intensities.
NOAA: Slow Atlantic hurricane season coming to a close
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, which officially ends on Saturday, Nov. 30, had the fewest number of hurricanes since 1982, thanks in large part to persistent, unfavorable atmospheric conditions over the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and tropical Atlantic Ocean. This year is expected to rank as the sixth-least-active Atlantic hurricane season since 1950, in terms of the collective strength and duration of named storms and hurricanes.
U.S.-Mexico Water Sharing: Background and Recent Developments (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
The United States and Mexico share the Colorado River and Rio Grande pursuant to binational agreements. Compliance with these agreements becomes more complicated and controversial as water demands near or exceed available supplies and when drought and high heat further reduce availability and increase demand.
Protecting Snow and Ice Critical for Development, Climate
Source: World Bank
Each year, the snow line on the Himalayan and Andean mountain slopes continues to creep up, exposing brown dirt where 50 years ago there was always snow. Communities downstream from those majestic peaks now watch as big lakes formed by melting glaciers cause catastrophic floods in some areas, while lack of snow melt lead to crippling drought in others.
At the same time, 4 million people perish each year from the smoke they inhale from open-fire cooking – soot that also rises into the atmosphere and speeds up the melting of ice and snow.
Pollution from open fires and diesel engines (known as black carbon), and methane gas released from livestock, landfills and mining operations; are some of the pollutants scientists say must quickly be curtailed to protect human welfare and tackle climate change.
A new scientific report shows that by moving rapidly to reduce such short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP), we could slow the warming in critical snow and ice-covered regions with multiple benefits as a result.
Model projections of atmospheric steering of Sandy-like superstorms
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Superstorm Sandy ravaged the eastern seaboard of the United States, costing a great number of lives and billions of dollars in damage. Whether events like Sandy will become more frequent as anthropogenic greenhouse gases continue to increase remains an open and complex question. Here we consider whether the persistent large-scale atmospheric patterns that steered Sandy onto the coast will become more frequent in the coming decades. Using the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, phase 5 multimodel ensemble, we demonstrate that climate models consistently project a decrease in the frequency and persistence of the westward flow that led to Sandy’s unprecedented track, implying that future atmospheric conditions are less likely than at present to propel storms westward into the coast.
New From the GAO
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Polar Weather Satellites: NOAA Identified Ways to Mitigate Data Gaps, but Contingency Plans and Schedules Require Further Attention. GAO-13-676, September 11.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657778.pdf
2. Geostationary Weather Satellites: Progress Made, but Weaknesses in Scheduling, Contingency Planning, and Communicating with Users Need to Be Addressed. GAO-13-597, September 9.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657517.pdf
3. Climate Change: State Should Further Improve Its Reporting on Financial Support to Developing Countries to Meet Future Requirements and Guidelines. GAO-13-829, September 19.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657986.pdf
1. Environmental Satellites: Focused Attention Needed to Improve Mitigation Strategies for Satellite Coverage Gaps, by David A. Powner, director, information technology management issues, before the Subcommittees on Environment and Oversight, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. GAO-13-865T, September 19.
2. Homeland Security: Observations on DHS’s Oversight of Major Acquisitions and Efforts to Match Resources to Needs, by Michele Mackin, director, acquisition and sourcing management, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-13-846T, September 19.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657970.pdf
1. GAO Announces Chair and Vice Chair of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Board of Governors, September 19.
Mapping climate change in European temperature distributions
Source: Environmental Research Letters
Climate change poses challenges for decision makers across society, not just in preparing for the climate of the future but even when planning for the climate of the present day. When making climate sensitive decisions, policy makers and adaptation planners would benefit from information on local scales and for user-specific quantiles (e.g. the hottest/coldest 5% of days) and thresholds (e.g. days above 28 ° C), not just mean changes. Here, we translate observations of weather into observations of climate change, providing maps of the changing shape of climatic temperature distributions across Europe since 1950. The provision of such information from observations is valuable to support decisions designed to be robust in today’s climate, while also providing data against which climate forecasting methods can be judged and interpreted. The general statement that the hottest summer days are warming faster than the coolest is made decision relevant by exposing how the regions of greatest warming are quantile and threshold dependent. In a band from Northern France to Denmark, where the response is greatest, the hottest days in the temperature distribution have seen changes of at least 2 ° C, over four times the global mean change over the same period. In winter the coldest nights are warming fastest, particularly in Scandinavia.
State of the Climate 2012 (PDF)
Source: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (via NOAA)
For the first time in several years, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation did not dominate regional climate conditions around the globe. A weak La Niña dissipated to ENSOneutral conditions by spring, and while El Niño appeared to be emerging during summer, this phase never fully developed as sea surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific uncharacteristically returned to neutral conditions. Nevertheless, other large-scale climate patterns and extreme weather events impacted various regions during the year. A negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation from mid-January to early February contributed to frigid conditions in parts of northern Africa, eastern Europe, and western Asia. A lack of rain during the 2012 wet season led to the worst drought in at least the past three decades for northeastern Brazil. Central North America also experienced one of its most severe droughts on record. The Caribbean observed a very wet dry season and it was the Sahel’s wettest rainy season in 50 years.
Overall, the 2012 average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces ranked among the 10 warmest years on record. The global land surface temperature alone was also among the 10 warmest on record. In the upper atmosphere, the average stratospheric temperature was record or near-record cold, depending on the dataset. After a 30-year warming trend from 1970 to 1999 for global sea surface temperatures, the period 2000–12 had little further trend. This may be linked to the prevalence of La Niña-like conditions during the 21st century. Heat content in the upper 700 m of the ocean remained near record high levels in 2012. Net increases from 2011 to 2012 were observed at 700-m to 2000-m depth and even in the abyssal ocean below. Following sharp decreases in global sea level in the first half of 2011 that were linked to the effects of La Niña, sea levels rebounded to reach records highs in 2012. The increased hydrological cycle seen in recent years continued, with more evaporation in drier locations and more precipitation in rainy areas. In a pattern that has held since 2004, salty areas of the ocean surfaces and subsurfaces were anomalously salty on average, while fresher areas were anomalously fresh.
Global tropical cyclone activity during 2012 was near average, with a total of 84 storms compared with the 1981–2010 average of 89. Similar to 2010 and 2011, the North Atlantic was the only hurricane basin that experienced above-normal activity. In this basin, Sandy brought devastation to Cuba and parts of the eastern North American seaboard. All other basins experienced either near- or below-normal tropical cyclone activity. Only three tropical cyclones reached Category 5 intensity–all in the Western North Pacific basin. Of these, Super Typhoon Bopha became the only storm in the historical record to produce winds greater than 130 kt south of 7°N. It was also the costliest storm to affect the Philippines and killed more than 1000 residents.
Minimum Arctic sea ice extent in September and Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent in June both reached new record lows.
Urban Forestry: Toward an Ecosystem Services Research Agenda: A Workshop Summary (2013)
Source: National Research Council
Much of the ecological research in the past decades has focused on rural or wilderness areas. Today, however, ecological research has been taking place in our cities, where our everyday decisions can have profound effects on our environment. This research, or urban ecology, includes an important element, trees. Trees have had a variety of environmental benefits for our environment including the sequestering carbon, reducing urban heat island effects, providing vital habitat for wildlife, and making nature accessible. These benefits have important impacts on the physical, socio-economic, and mental health of humans as well. Being exposed to trees has been shown to enhance social cohesion, improve health and recreational opportunities, and increase real estate values.
In order to gain more knowledge into this urban forestry, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) held a workshop February 25-26, 2013. The workshop brought together more than 100 people with various interests in urban forestry research to share information and perspectives, foster communication across specific areas of ecosystem service research, and consider integrated approaches that cut across these realms. The workshop specifically examined current capabilities to characterize and quantify the benefits, key gaps in our understanding, the challenges of planning urban forests in a way that optimizes multiple ecosystem services and more.
Urban Forestry: Toward an Ecosystem Services Research Agenda: A Workshop Summary presents an overview of the issues discussed by the workshop’s breakout groups; summarizes presentations from the four panels which included Biophysical Services of the Urban Forest; and context for the study with introductory material from the workshop.
Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction
Source: United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
The third edition of the United Nations Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction warns that the worst is yet to come.
This worrying news follows three consecutive years in which direct economic losses from disasters have soared past $100 billion. If uninsured losses were included, the figure would be even more staggering.
Based on a new state-of-the art global risk model, the report’s findings should raise concern among policymakers and businesses. In a world of ongoing population growth, rapid urbanization, climate change and an approach to investment that discounts disaster risk, the potential for future losses is enormous. The global community continues to mix a destructive ‘cocktail of disaster risk’ despite catastrophic losses in recent years from the Japan earthquake and tsunami, floods in Pakistan and Thailand and the destructive Super Storm Sandy.
At the same time, the report documents encouraging signs of progress. Public-private partnerships in risk management have proven their worth during several disasters, including the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Disaster risk management reduces uncertainty, builds confidence, cuts costs and creates value. More private sector senior executives are coming to recognize this. But growing recognition must be translated into a more systematic approach to disaster risk management that will make tomorrow’s world a safer place.
Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force Releases Rebuilding Strategy
Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, chaired by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, today released a rebuilding strategy to serve as a model for communities across the nation facing greater risks from extreme weather and to continue helping the Sandy-affected region rebuild. The Rebuilding Strategy contains 69 policy recommendations, many of which have already been adopted, that will help homeowners stay in and repair their homes, strengthen small businesses and revitalize local economies and ensure entire communities are better able to withstand and recover from future storms.
Among the recommendations that will have the greatest impact on Federal funding is a process to prioritize all large-scale infrastructure projects and map the connections and interdependencies between them, as well as guidelines to ensure all of those projects are built to withstand the impacts of climate change. The Strategy also explores how to harden energy infrastructure to minimize power outages and fuel shortages – and ensure continuation of cellular service – in the event of future storms.
The goal of these and other recommendations in the Strategy is to:
- Align federal funding with local rebuilding visions.
- Cut red tape and get assistance to families, businesses, and communities efficiently and effectively, with maximum accountability.
- Coordinate the efforts of the Federal, State, and local governments, with a region-wide approach to rebuilding.
- Ensure the region is rebuilt in a way that makes it more resilient – that is, better able to withstand future storms and other risks posed by a changing climate.
Weather, Salience of Climate Change and Congressional Voting (PDF)
Source: Harvard Environmental Economics Program
Climate change is a complex long-run phenomenon. The speed and severity with which it is occurring is difficult to observe, complicating the formation of beliefs for individuals. We use Google Insights search intensity data as a proxy for the salience of climate change and examine how search patterns vary with unusual local weather. We found that searches for “climate change” and “global warming” increase with extreme temperatures and unusual lack of snow. The responsiveness to weather shocks is greater in states that are more reliant on climate-sensitive industries and that elect more environmentally-favorable congressional delegations. Furthermore, we demonstrate that effects of abnormal weather extend beyond search behavior to observable action on environmental issues. We examine the voting records of members of the U.S. Congress from 2004 to 2011 and found that members are more likely to take a pro-environment stance on votes when their home-state experiences unusual weather.
Economic Benefits of Increasing Electric Grid Resilience to Weather Outages (PDF)
Source: Executive Office of the President
Severe weather is the leading cause of power outages in the United States. Between 2003 and 2012, an estimated 679 widespread power outages occurred due to severe weather. Power outages close schools, shut down businesses and impede emergency services, costing the economy billions of dollars and disrupting the lives of millions of Americans. The resilience of the U.S. electric grid is a key part of the nation’s defense against severe weather and remains an important focus of President Obama’s administration.
In June 2011, President Obama released A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid which set out a four-pillared strategy for modernizing the electric grid. The initiative directed billions of dollars toward investments in 21st century smart grid technologies focused at increasing the grid’s efficiency, reliability, and resilience, and making it less vulnerable to weather-related outages and reducing the time it takes to restore power after an outage occurs.
Grid resilience is increasingly important as climate change increasesthe frequency and intensity of severe weather. Greenhouse gas emissions are elevating air and water temperatures around the world. Scientific research predicts more severe hurricanes, winter storms, heat waves, floods and other extreme weather events being among the changes in climate induced by anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gasses.
This report estimates the annual cost of power outages caused by severe weather between 2003 and 2012 and describes various strategies for modernizing the grid and increasing grid resilience. Over this period, weather-related outages are estimated to have cost the U.S. economy an inflation-adjusted annual average of $18 billion to $33 billion. Annual costs fluctuate significantly and are greatest in the years of major storms such as Hurricane Ike in 2008, a year in which cost estimates range from $40 billion to $75 billion, and Superstorm Sandy in 2012, a year in which cost estimates range from $27 billion to $52 billion. A recent Congressional Research Service study estimates the inflation-adjusted cost of weather-related outages at $25 to $70 billion annually (Campbell 2012). The variation in estimates reflects different assumptions and data used in the estimation process. The costs of outages take various forms including lost output and wages, spoiled inventory, delayed production, inconvenience and damage to the electric grid. Continued investment in grid modernization and resilience will mitigate these costs over time – saving the economy billions of dollars and reducing the hardship experienced by millions of Americans when extreme weather strikes.
Forecast of Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Activity and Landfall Strike Probability for 2013 (Dr. Gray – 8/2/13)
Forecast of Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Activity and Landfall Strike Probability for 2013 (PDF)
Source: Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University
Information obtained through July 2013 indicates that the remainder of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season will be more active than the average 1981-2010 season. We estimate that the remainder of 2013 will have about 8 hurricanes (average is 5.5), 14 named storms (average is 10.5), 75 named storm days (average is 58), 35 hurricane days (average is 21.3), 3 major (Category 3-4-5) hurricanes (average is 2.0) and 7 major hurricane days (average is 3.9). The probability of U.S. major hurricane landfall and Caribbean major hurricane activity for the remainder of the 2013 season is estimated to be above its long-period average. We expect the remainder of the Atlantic basin hurricane season to accrue Net Tropical Cyclone (NTC) activity approximately 140 percent of the seasonal average. We have decreased our seasonal forecast slightly from early April and early June, due to anomalous cooling of sea surface temperatures in the tropical and subtropical eastern Atlantic.
This forecast was based on a newly-developed extended-range early August statistical prediction scheme developed over the previous 33 years. An earlier statistical model that was utilized for several years has also been consulted. Analog predictors were also considered.
Cool neutral ENSO conditions are currently present in the tropical Pacific, and we believe that these conditions are likely to persist for the remainder of the Atlantic hurricane season. While sea level pressure anomalies across the tropical Atlantic have been relatively low during June and July, sea surface temperatures have anomalously cooled in the eastern tropical and subtropical Atlantic. These cooler SSTs are typically associated with less favorable thermodynamic conditions which we believe could cause slightly less TC activity than expected earlier.
NOAA Releases NERRS Climate Sensitivity Report
The nation’s 28 National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERR) are experiencing the negative effects of human and climate-related stressors according to a new NOAA research report from the National Ocean Service. Results of the new national study, Climate Sensitivity of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, point to three East Coast located reserves, Sapelo Island NERR (GA), ACE Basin NERR (SC) and Waquoit Bay NERR (MA), and one on the California-Mexico border, Tijuana River NERR (CA), as the most sensitive to climate change.
Researchers determined the extent of relative climate sensitivity in the reserves by looking at five factors: social, biophysical, and ecological sensitivity, and exposure to temperature change and sea level rise.
High social sensitivity to climate change was indicated where there is higher employment within natural resource-dependent industries, lower per capita income and median home values, higher percentages of minority populations, and a higher percentage of individuals lacking a high school education.
• Social sensitivity to climate change was generally highest in the southern portions of the East and West coasts of the U.S., the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.
Biophysical sensitivity summarizes each reserve’s relationship between annual spring atmospheric temperature and rainfall data and water quality factors such as water temperature, dissolved oxygen and pH.
• Temperature change exposure risk was greatest for reserves located in the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, Mid- Atlantic, and Northeast regions of the country, while reserves in the Gulf of Mexico, parts of the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, California, and Oregon showed the greatest risk of seal level rise exposure.
NICB Reports Hail Damage Claims in the United States, 2010-2012
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) today reported that insurance claims resulting from hailstorm damage increased 84 percent in 2012 from their 2010 level. In 2010, there were 467,602 hail damage claims filed. That number increased to 689,267 in 2011 and to 861,597 in 2012—an overall increase of 84 percent from 2010 to 2012.
The nation has experienced severe storms (wind, tornado, hail) that are occurring with more intensity and affecting more areas of the country. While scientists debate why these storms occur, no one argues with their effects—extensive property damage and, many times, loss of life. The property damage can be as minimal as a few broken shingles to total destruction of buildings. This report focuses just on insurance claims resulting from hail damage.
Over 2 million hail damage claims were processed from Jan. 1, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2012. During this period, the top five states generating hail damage claims were Texas (320,823); Missouri (138,857); Kansas (126,490); Colorado (118,118) and Oklahoma (114,168).
Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)
The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region’s future. The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial interests in the region. On May 10, 2013, the Obama Administration released a national strategy document for the Arctic region.
Record low extents of Arctic sea ice over the past decade have focused scientific and policy attention on links to global climate change and projected ice-free seasons in the Arctic within decades. These changes have potential consequences for weather in the United States, access to mineral and biological resources in the Arctic, the economies and cultures of peoples in the region, and national security.
The five Arctic coastal states—the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, and Denmark (of which Greenland is a territory)—are in the process of preparing Arctic territorial claims for submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The Russian claim to the enormous underwater Lomonosov Ridge, if accep ted, would reportedly grant Russia nearly one- half of the Arctic area. There are also four other unresolved Arctic territorial disputes. The diminishment of Arctic ice could lead in co ming years to increased commercial shipping on two trans-Arctic sea routes—the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage. Current international guidelines for ships opera ting in Arctic waters are being updated.
Changes to the Arctic brought about by warming temperatures will likely allow more exploration for oil, gas, and minerals. Warming that causes permafrost to melt could pose challenges to onshore exploration activities. Increased oil and gas exploration and tourism (cruise ships) in the Arctic increase the risk of pollution in the region. Cleaning up oil spills in ice-covered waters will be more difficult than in other areas, primarily because effective strategies have yet to be developed.
Large commercial fisheries exist in the Arctic. The United States is currently meeting with other countries regarding the management of Arctic fish stocks. Changes in the Arctic could affect threatened and endangered species. Under the Endangered Species Act, the polar bear was listed as threatened on May 15, 2008. Arctic climate change is also expected to affect the economies, health, and cultures of Arctic indigenous peoples. Two of the Coast Guard’s three polar icebreakers— Polar Star and Polar Sea —have exceeded their intended 30-year service lives, and Polar Sea is not operational. The possibility of increased sea traffic through Arctic waters raises an issue concerning Arctic search and rescue capabilities. On May 12, 2011, representatives from the member states of the Arctic Council signed an agreement on cooperation on aeronautical and maritime search and rescue in the Arctic.
The Arctic has increasingly become a subject of discussion among political leaders of the nations in the region. Although there is significant international cooperation on Arctic issues, the Arctic is also increasingly being viewed by some observers as a potential emerging security issue. In varying degrees, the Arctic coastal states have indicated a willingness to establish and maintain a military presence in the high north. U.S. military forces, particularly the Navy and Coast Guard, have begun to pay more attention to the region. On May 21, 2013, the Coast Guard released a strategy document for the Arctic.
Department of Energy Releases New Report on Energy Sector Vulnerabilities
Source: U.S. Department of Energy
The U.S. Department of Energy released a new report which assesses how America’s critical energy and electricity infrastructure is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Historically high temperatures in recent years have been accompanied by droughts and extreme heat waves, more wildfires than usual, and several intense storms that caused power and fuel disruptions for millions of people. These trends are expected to continue, which could further impact energy systems critical to the nation’s economy.
The U.S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather report, which builds on President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, notes that annual temperatures across the United States have increased by about 1.5°F over the last century. In fact, 2012 was both the warmest year on record in the contiguous United States and saw the hottest month since the country started keeping records in 1895. The implications for America’s energy infrastructure include:
- Increased risk of temporary partial or full shutdowns at thermoelectric (coal, natural gas, and nuclear) power plants because of decreased water availability for cooling and higher ambient and air water temperatures. Thermoelectric power plants require water cooling in order to operate. A study of coal plants, for example, found that roughly 60 percent of the current fleet is located in areas of water stress.
- Reduced power generation from hydroelectric power plants in some regions and seasons due to drought and declining snowpack. For example, earlier spring snowmelts could decrease summer water availability leading to potential hydropower shortages when energy demand for cooling is greatest.
- Risks to energy infrastructure located along the coast from sea level rise, increasing intensity of storms, and higher storm surge and flooding — potentially disrupting oil and gas production, refining, and distribution, as well as electricity generation and distribution.
- Increasing risks of physical damage to power lines, transformers and electricity distribution systems from hurricanes, storms and wildfires that are growing more intense and more frequent.
- Increased risks of disruption and delay to fuel transport by rail and barge during more frequent periods of drought and flooding that affect water levels in rivers and ports.
- Higher air conditioning costs and risks of blackouts and brownouts in some regions if the capacity of existing power plants does not keep pace with the growth in peak electricity demand due to increasing temperatures and heat waves. An Argonne National Laboratory study found that higher peak electricity demand as a result of climate change related temperature increases will require an additional 34 GW of new power generation capacity in the western United States alone by 2050, costing consumers $45 billion. This is roughly equivalent to more than 100 new power plants, and doesn’t include new power plants that will be needed to accommodate growth in population or other factors.
In addition to identifying critical areas at risk from climate change and extreme weather, the report also identifies activities already underway to address these challenges, and discusses potential opportunities to make the energy sector more resilient. Potential future opportunities for federal, state, and local governments could include innovative policies that broaden the suite of available climate-resilient energy technologies and encourage their deployment, improved data collection and models to better inform researchers and lawmakers of energy sector vulnerabilities and response opportunities, and enhanced stakeholder engagement. These activities will increase the resilience of our energy infrastructure by “hardening” existing facilities and structures to better withstand severe droughts, floods, storms or wildfires and by contributing to smarter development of new facilities.
Scientists are expecting a very large “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico and a smaller than average hypoxic level in the Chesapeake Bay this year, based on several NOAA-supported forecast models.
NOAA-supported modelers at the University of Michigan, Louisiana State University, and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium are forecasting that this year’s Gulf of Mexico hypoxic “dead” zone will be between 7,286 and 8,561 square miles which could place it among the ten largest recorded. That would range from an area the size of Connecticut, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia combined on the low end to the New Jersey on the upper end. The high estimate would exceed the largest ever reported 8,481 square miles in 2002 .
Hypoxic (very low oxygen) and anoxic (no oxygen) zones are caused by excessive nutrient pollution, often from human activities such as agriculture, which results in insufficient oxygen to support most marine life in near-bottom waters. Aspects of weather, including wind speed, wind direction, precipitation and temperature, also impact the size of dead zones.
The Gulf estimate is based on the assumption of no significant tropical storms in the two weeks preceding or during the official measurement survey cruise scheduled from July 25-August 3 2013. If a storm does occur the size estimate could drop to a low of 5344 square miles, slightly smaller than the size of Connecticut.