Hand holding globe on fire

The Cornell Daily Sun recently published "Special Issue: Climate Change" which featured commentary by a number of Atkinson Center Faculty Fellows 

Faculty Fellows on Climate Change

December 3, 2012

Hand holding globe on fire

The Cornell Daily Sun recently published "Special Issue: Climate Change" which featured commentary by a number of Atkinson Center Faculty Fellows, as highlighted below:

This week in Science we take a closer look at what climate change is and its possible effects toward extreme weather and species extinction, as well as how Cornell scientists are monitoring it to help create future mitigation plans.

The Mechanisms of Climate Change

Chuck GreeneChuck Greene (EAS)

“The question of whether climate change affected hurricane Sandy does not have a simple answer.   I would say yes and no,” said [Prof. Art] DeGaetano [earth and atmospheric sciences]. “Climate change did not cause hurricane Sandy, but it may have helped to increase the storm’s strength…”

“Most of Sandy’s impacts were caused by very high storm surges.  Her winds and motion caused sea-levels to rise by over 12 feet in some locations,” he said.  Increased sea levels may strengthen typical storms, like the ones generally seen every 5 to 10 years, to levels similar to that of Sandy, said DeGaetano…

A Link to Hurricane Sandy?

Art DeGaetanoArt DeGaetano (EAS)

“The question of whether climate change affected hurricane Sandy does not have a simple answer.   I would say yes and no,” said [Prof. Art] DeGaetano [earth and atmospheric sciences]. “Climate change did not cause hurricane Sandy, but it may have helped to increase the storm’s strength…”

“Most of Sandy’s impacts were caused by very high storm surges.  Her winds and motion caused sea-levels to rise by over 12 feet in some locations,” he said.  Increased sea levels may strengthen typical storms, like the ones generally seen every 5 to 10 years, to levels similar to that of Sandy, said DeGaetano…"

Extinction and Climate Change

Warren AllmonWarren Allmon (EAS)

“Species start trying to adapt to climate change, and if they can, then fine, they move somewhere else,” said Prof. Warren Allmon, earth and atmospheric sciences, and an author of the book Climate Change-Past Present and Future: a Very Short Guide.  “But if they can’t move somewhere else, what do they do?  And that’s when they start disappearing…”

“The short answer is, you wouldn’t have wanted to live on the Earth the day after the dinosaurs disappeared, and you wouldn’t want to live on the earth if global temperatures go up 5 degrees. And you don’t want your grandchildren or your great grandchildren to live on that earth, either…”

Coral Reefs and a Warming Ocean

Drew HarvellDrew Harvell (EEB)

“It’s kind of ironic,” said Prof. Drew Harvell, ecology and evolutionary biology. “Here you have these creatures that only live in the tropics, and yet a two-degree temperature increase totally blows their symbiosis. And it’s partly because the algal symbiosis are so temperature sensitive…”

“The effect of the bleaching is as if all of the trees outside had their leaves turn white” said Harvell. “You’d be pretty shocked if you went outside and all the trees were white, that’s what it looks like on the reef…”

Climate Models: Predicting the Change

Peter HessPeter Hess (BEE)

Prof. Peter Hess, biological engineering, and Prof. Natalie Mahowald, earth and atmospheric sciences, have used a type of modeling system known as the Climate Earth System Model (CESM) to simulate past, present and future climate states.  The CESM is a climate model supported by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy…

“If I add so much CO2 emissions for the next hundred years, [the model] will tell what the temperature will be over the US or over Europe,” said Hess… “It lets you experiment with the system because the Earth isn’t something you could put in a laboratory, so one of the easiest ways to experiment with it is with one of these models…”

Natalie MahowaldNatalie Mahowald (EAS)

Mahowald agrees. “They’re one of many tools that help us assess how much CO2 we can emit safely as well as identify regions of vulnerability” Mahowald said.  She also said that by identifying vulnerable areas, scientists could help make efforts towards creating resiliency in those regions for the future.