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NYSERDA Issues Updated Climate Projections Report with Cornell Input

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) 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 www.nyserda.ny.gov/ClimAID.