Remembering Sandy, Five Years Later

Rockaway Beach Boulevard, between Beach 113th & 114th Streets, Rockaway Park, Queens, November 4, 2012Rockaway Beach Boulevard, between Beach 113th & 114th Streets, Rockaway Park, Queens, November 2012

The storm surge flooded this block to at least five feet. Fire broke out and was quickly spread by 80-mph winds. These buildings burned down to the water line.

This was the site of a heroic rescue by FDNY Swift Water Team 6 and other firefighters attached to this unit for rescues during the storm. Firefighters Edward A. Morrison and Thomas J. Fee received awards for their actions during these rescues.……

Investigators later determined this fire was caused by downed electrical wires falling onto 113-18 Rockaway Beach Boulevard. 16 homes were destroyed by the fire.…

There was worse destruction than this on Beach 130th Street, between Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach Channel Road. That fire started at 239 Beach 129 St. and destroyed 31 buildings.

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Sustainability Guidelines for NYC Parks

Panorama, Frozen Lullwater at Prospect Park at Sunset
Panorama, Frozen Lullwater at Sunset, Prospect Park

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks) recently released new sustainability guidelines for the design and maintenance of NYC’s green spaces, High Performance Landscape Guidelines: 21st Century Parks for NYC:

High Performance Landscape Guidelines is the first document of its kind in the nation: a comprehensive, municipal design primer for sustainable parks and open space. The product of a unique partnership between the Parks Department and the Design Trust, a nonprofit organization that helped create sustainable guidelines for NYC buildings, High Performance Landscape Guidelines covers every aspect of creating sustainable parks, from design to construction to maintenance, and feature many best practices for managing soil, water, and vegetation resources.
Press Release, January 6, 2011

The Guidelines, running over 270 pages, cover site assessment; design, construction and maintenance; and soils, water and vegetation. the final section of the manual includes several case studies, including two of Brooklyn’s Parks: Calvert Vaux and Canarsie Parks.

Climate change is identified as a major factor, if not the single most important consideration, for the guidelines:

Climate change threatens the stability and longevity of New York City’s infrastructure, buildings, and parks; it also compromises the health and safety of the city’s population. Unless the growth of greenhouse gas emissions is curbed and reversed, experts predict that climate change will result in significant sea level rise, increased storm intensity and frequency, and increased temperatures.

Two factors will exacerbate the impacts of climate change in New York City: the urban heat island effect and the city’s overburdened stormwater infrastructure.

– Climate Change and 21st Century Parks, Part 1, Guidelines


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Sustainable Gardening


High Performance Landscape Guidelines: 21st Century Parks for NYC, available as PDF (273 pages)
Parks Press Release: A New Year Launches A New Era In Great Park Design, 2011-01-06

Trees for the Future, Blog Action Day 2009

Like Garden Rant, global warming and climate change is a recurring topic on this blog:

The impacts of climate change to urban areas, such as New York City, will be extreme. Today, a typical NYC summer has 15 days with temperatures over 90F, and 2 days over 100F. By the end of this century, even optimistic scenarios, in which we reduce emissions and greenhouse gases starting NOW, NYC will have 39 90F days, and 7 100F days. In a typical summer. Some summers will be worse. People will die. If we do nothing, it will be worse.

I’ve written a lot about more immediate benefits of city trees, such as reduced flooding, summer cooling, and improved air quality. There remain opportunities for nurturing our urban forests. Addressing climate change is one more reason to do so:

Urban trees help offset climate change by capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide in their tissue, reducing energy used by buildings, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel based power plants. Our City’s trees store about 1.35 million tons of carbon valued at $24.9 million. In addition, our trees remove over 42,000 tons of carbon each year.
Benefits of NYC’s Urban Forest, MillionTreesNYC

Planting trees is one thing a gardener can do that will outlive them. But what world will my tree grow into? And what are its chances for survival in that world? I must avoid trees that are already at the southern limit of their range in NYC; by the end of the century, the climate will have escaped them. Trees can’t move fast enough to keep pace with the changes that are coming, that are already happening. They will need our help to survive.

I feel compelled to act as a guardian of my little area of the world, for as long as it, and I, last. Though I have always had, and expect I always will have, a troubled relationship with “community,” perhaps there is one I can be part of which will “watch over a much larger area.” It is my belief, my hope, that collectively we will create, and find in each other, that community.
– July 26, 2006: The Bemidji Statement On Seventh Generation Guardianship

The whole world is now our Ark, and we are its Noah. It’s going to be a long ride.

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By Label/Tag:


Benefits of NYC’s Urban Forest, MillionTreesNYC

Ancient Forest to Modern City: Mapping Landscape Change in the United States, NASA Earth Observatory, 2008-02-01

Climate Choices: The Northeast

Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change

A Tree’s Response to Environmental Changes: What Can We Expect Over the Next 100 Years?, NASA Earth Observatory, 2009-10-06

New York invests in California’s carbon

US carbon asset manager Natsource LLC said on Monday it has invested in the first forest-based greenhouse gas emissions reductions under California rules. Natsource paid a private owner of a redwood forest in Humboldt County represented by nonprofit group the Pacific Forest Trust for credits representing 60,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. – NY Company Buys First Californian Forest Carbon Credits, PlanetArk

The emissions reductions were created through sustainable forestry on a permanently conserved property in California. This deal illustrates the significant role that management of existing forests can play in addressing climate change. The transaction is the first commercial delivery of certified emissions reductions under the Forest Protocols adopted last fall by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The Protocols are the first rigorous governmental accounting standards in the U.S. for climate projects embracing forest management and avoided deforestation, while ensuring emissions reductions are real, permanent, additional and verifiable. – Joint Press Release (PDF), NatSource and Pacific Forest trust


California Air Resources Board (CARB) NatSource Asset Management LLC (NatSource) The Pacific Forest Trust

Another Warm Year

January – November 2007 statewide temperature rankings. Credit: NOAA

The year 2007 is on pace to become one of the 10 warmest years for the contiguous U.S. … The year was marked by exceptional drought in the U.S. Southeast and the West, which helped fuel another extremely active wildfire season. The year also brought outbreaks of cold air, and killer heat waves and floods. Meanwhile, the global surface temperature for 2007 is expected to be fifth warmest.
NOAA: 2007 a Top Ten Warm Year for U.S. and Globe

Preliminary data will be updated in early January to reflect the final three weeks of December and is not considered final until a full analysis is complete next spring.


Including 2007, seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 and the 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1997. The global average surface temperature has risen between 0.6°C and 0.7°C since the start of the twentieth century, and the rate of increase since 1976 has been approximately three times faster than the century-scale trend.

Celebrating 50 Years of Carbon Dioxide (Measurement)

Monthly Mean CO2 for the Past 50 Years. Credit: NOAA
Mauna Loa, Hawaii Monthly Mean CO2 for the Past 50 Years

This simple graph of the Mauna Loa Carbon Dioxide Record documents a 0.53 percent or two parts per million per year increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1958. This gas alone is responsible for 63 percent of the warming attributable to all greenhouse gases according to NOAA’s Earth System Research Lab.

Fifty years ago the U.S. Weather Bureau, predecessor of NOAA’s National Weather Service, helped sponsor a young scientist from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to begin tracking carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere at two of the planet’s most remote and pristine sites: the South Pole and the summit of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. This week NOAA, Scripps, the World Meteorological Organization, and other organizations will celebrate the half-century anniversary of the global record of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere—often referred to as the “Keeling Curve” in honor of that young scientist, Charles David Keeling.
NOAA Celebrates 50-Year Carbon Dioxide Record

NOAA’s Mauna Loa, Hawaii CO2 Monitoring Station. Credit: NOAANOAA's Mauna Loa, Hawaii CO2 Monitoring Station

Carbon dioxide is the most important of the greenhouse gases produced by humans and very likely responsible for the observed rise in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century. The Mauna Loa and South Pole data were the first to show the rate of CO2 buildup in the atmosphere. In 1974, NOAA began tracking greenhouse gases worldwide and continued global observations as the planet warmed rapidly over the past few decades.


Mauna Loa Carbon Dioxide Record
Mauna Loa Observatories
Earth System Research Lab

Gardening as if our lives depended on it

2014-10-13: I just discovered that none of the original links are good. Two web sites linked from this post – Climate Choices, and the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA) – now redirect to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

I first started writing this post in the Fall of 2006. I drafted it in October 2006, but never published it. I think I was too overwhelmed by the impact of what I was writing to release it. The IPCC report has been issued since then. What I wrote over a year ago no longer sounds so alarmist to me. A post on Garden Rant spurred me to dust this off and get it out there, however imperfect I may think it is.

There’s a lot to this, and I’ve gone through some changes just to take it all in. Here’s the short version:

  • Climate change is inevitable. It’s happening already. We can’t undo the damage we’ve already caused. We can only ride it out.
  • If we continue as we have, the impacts will be severe. It’s going to get really, really bad.
  • Actions we take now can reduce the impact. If we start doing things differently now, it won’t get as bad as it could. We can affect the future.

There are those who cling, at times violently, to ignorance and dismissal of the facts of climate change induced by human activity. “De-nial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” It reminds me of the classical stages of grieving described 40 years ago by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, all of which are demonstrated in different responses expressed around this topic:

  • Denial. The three-dog argument – denial, minimization, projection – applies here: There’s no climate change (it’s not a problem). The climate change is within historical ranges (it’s not so bad). It’s a natural process (it’s not my problem).
  • Anger. Protest, boycott, rage against the machine, fight the system, fight the man.
  • Bargaining. Carbon “credits” is the most obvious example. Little different from buying indulgences from a corrupt church.
  • Depression. There’s nothing we can do about it.
  • Acceptance. It’s going to happen. It’s happening. Now what do we do about it?

In July 2006, I wrote about the Bemidji Statement on Seventh Generation Guardianship:

The seventh generation would be my great-grandchildren’s great-grandchildren’s children. (If I had, or were going to have, any children to begin with.) If a generation occurs within the range of 20-30 years, we’re talking 140-210 years. Call it 175 years from now.

It’s the year 2181. It’s hard for me to imagine anything I can do to stave off or reduce the multiple disasters which we will have caused.

That was the voice of depression. I feel some hope now. The changes I make now, the work I do now, can make a difference. But only if I accept what’s going to happen if I do nothing.

A report (PDF) issued in October 2006 details what’s going to happen to the climate of the Northeastern United States – Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania – in this century:

The Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA) is a collaboration between the Union of Concerned Scientists and a team of independent experts using state-of-the-art tools to assess how global warming will affect the Northeast United States following two different paths: A higher emissions path with continued rapid growth in global warming pollution, and a lower emissions path with greatly reduced heat trapping emissions.

The goal of this assessment is to provide opinion leaders, policymakers, and the public with the best available science as we make informed choices about reducing our heat-trapping emissions and managing the changes we cannot avoid.
Climate Choices in the Northeast, Climate Choice

The [Northeast] region, comprising nine of the 50 US states, is critical, since it alone is the world’s seventh-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, just behind the entire nation of Germany and ahead of all of Canada …

Climate changes already under way will continue to accelerate in the next few decades, whether the high-emissions or low-emissions path is taken, but the results will diverge dramatically by the time today’s newborns reach middle age, the study found.
US Northeast Could Warm Drastically by 2100, PlanetArk

Even the more optimistic, lower-emission scenario – if we aggressively reduce our contributions to global warming – is concerning. If we do nothing, NYC will become unliveable by the end of this century.

The higher-emission scenario … represents a future with fossil fuel-intensive economic growth and a global population that peaks mid-century and then declines. In this scenario, concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (the main heat-trapping gas) reach 940 parts per million (ppm) by 2100—more than triple pre-industrial levels.

The lower-emission scenario … also represents a world with high economic growth and a global population that peaks by mid-century, then declines. However, the lower-emission scenario includes a shift to less fossil fuel-intensive industries and the introduction of clean and resource-efficient technologies. Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations reach 550 ppm by 2100, about double pre-industrial levels. Current carbon dioxide concentrations stand at 380 ppm (about 40 percent above pre-industrial levels).
Scenarios and Models, Climate Choice

Over the past 40 years, NYC has averaged 15 days over 90F, and 2 days over 100F each year. In the lower-emission scenario, by the end of the century NYC will have 39 days over 90F, and 7 days over 100F. Under higher (unreduced) emissions, NYC will have 72 days over 90F (five times the current historical average), and 25 days over 100F (ten times the current historical average).

While these urban temperature projections seem to include the overall urban heat island effect, they do not describe surface temperatures, which I wrote about in August 2006. Rooftop temperatures can exceed 150F in the summer. These effects will be amplified even more when the city bakes for weeks and months without relief. We can expect heat-related deaths in the tens of thousands. Heat-related structural failures are not out of the question; the infrastructure of the city was not built with these conditions in mind.

What about winter temperatures? These will also increase. They have already increased by 3.8F from 1970 to 2000. Under the lower-emission scenario, average winter temperatures over the region will increase by 5-7.5F. With higher emissions, we will see 8-12F increase in winter temperatures. The USDA Hardiness Zones are delineated by 5F, so this means my garden is moving 1-2 zones this century, from Zone 7a to Zone 7b or 8a.

For another point of comparison, when things were that much cooler than they are now, NYC was under a mile of ice.

The temperature projections do not include the apparent temperature caused by increased humidity – the heat index – which can make it feel up to 20F hotter. Warmer air can hold more moisture. The increase in humidity will ramp up the heat index faster than the actual temperature.

This map represents how climate will shift in the NYC area through this century. This includes consideration of the heat index. Basically, we’ll be somewhere between Virgina Beach and Savannah.

Thanks to PlanetArk for bringing this to my attention

Related Posts

Imagine Flatbush 2030, November 20, 2007
Barbara Corcoran Hates the Earth, November 18, 2007
Preserving Livable Streets, November 7, 2007
2006 was the fifth-warmest year on record, February 20, 2007
The IPCC Report: Grief & Gardening #6, February 4, 2007
Buying Indulgences: The Carbon Market, November 23, 2006
NASA Earth Observatory Maps NYC’s Heat Island, Block by Block, August 6, 2006
The Bemidji Statement on Seventh Generation Guardianship, July 22, 2006


Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA) (link corrected 2014-10-13)
Full report (PDF, 159 pages, link corrected 2014-10-13)
Summary (PDF, 8 pages, link defunct 2014-10-13)
Climate Choice (link defunct, 2014-10-13)
Union of Concerned Scientists

Canaries in the Coal Mine: Honeybees and Climate Change

NASA scientist Wayne Esaias believes that a beehive’s seasonal cycle of weight gain and loss is a sensitive indicator of the impact of climate change on flowering plants. A hobbyist beekeeper, he has found signals of climate change in his records of the weight of his beehives, and wants to enlist other beekeepers to contribute their observations as well:

The 25-year NASA veteran has made a career studying patterns of plant growth in the world’s oceans and how they relate to climate and ecosystem change, first from ships, then from aircraft, and finally from satellites. But for the past year, he’s been preoccupied with his bee hives, which started as a family project around 1990 when his son was in the Boy Scouts. According to his honeybees, big changes are underway in Maryland forests. The most important event in the life of flowering plants and their pollinators—flowering itself—is happening much earlier in the year than it used to. – Buzzing About Climate Change

[The] 1-to-5-kilometer-radius area in which a hive’s worker bees forage is the same spatial scale that many ecological and climate models use to predict ecosystems’ responses to climate change. It also matches the spatial scale of satellite images of vegetation collected by NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. This similarity of scale means that all these ways of studying ecosystems could be integrated into a more sophisticated picture of how plant and animal communities will respond to climate change than any one method alone could provide. Esaias is particularly interested in comparing the hive data to satellite-based maps of vegetation “greenness,” a scale that remote-sensing scientists commonly use to map the health and density of Earth’s vegetation. Scientists have been making these types of maps for decades, and they have used them to document how warming temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere are causing vegetation to green up earlier in the spring than it did in the 1980s. Such maps are an excellent general indicator of seasonal changes in vegetation, says Esaias, but by themselves, they won’t tell you something as tangible as when plants are flowering. – Will Plants and Pollinators Get Out of Sync?

About half of the approximately 6 million honeybee colonies in the United States are kept by individual or family-scale beekeepers. Esaias’ vision is to develop a how-to guide, an automatic data recorder, and the computer and networking resources at Goddard Space Flight Center that would be needed to collect and preserve the data. Ideally, a hive data recorder would be hooked up to the Internet so that volunteers’ hive weights could appear on a Website hosted at Goddard. His goal is to get the cost per kit below $200 and then to get NASA funding to outfit a network of volunteers — HoneybeeNet — and analyze their data. “Ultimately, what we’d like to have is thousands of these across the country. Even if we can get the cost down to $200 a piece, that is still a lot of money to ask for until you have a test data set that proves it is valuable,” admits Esaias. He’s been working with local bee clubs in Maryland, rounding up some 20 volunteers who already have or are willing to purchase their own scales. He hopes that the data collected during the 2007 spring-summer season will be a prototype that will convince NASA to fund a pilot project.

Links: HoneybeeNetColony Collapse Disorder (CCD)Heat Island Effect

Buying Indulgences: The Carbon Market

My opinion – based on gut reaction, not any deep analysis – of carbon trading is that it’s equivalent to the religious practice of buying indulgences: sin all you like, as long as your pockets are deep enough to buy “penance.”

It doesn’t work. The problem is that carbon, like sin, is itself a very deep pocket. There’s no cap on carbon emissions, at least in this country, the single largest contributor. Without a cap, “supply” is unlimited, and no incentive to reduce emissions. There’s a perverse dysfunctional incentive to emit more carbon to create more “product” to sell.

Selling indulgences creates a disincentive to reduce sin.

The business of climate change is heating up — along with the planet — so fast that many ordinary folks are left wanting to do right but wondering where their money goes. The emerging carbon-offset industry has little oversight or transparency, so it’s difficult for consumers to see if they are really being a “hero” by going “zero” — as Travelocity preaches on its Web site — or being suckered.

There’s no quick and easy way for consumers to see exactly how the money is spent.

Just because someone pays to offset a ton of carbon pollution doesn’t mean that a ton is taken out of the atmosphere. Also, offsetting a ton of carbon dioxide doesn’t even mean that is the gas being offset. Everything is converted to carbon — meaning that one molecule of methane, a really bad gas — is equal to 23 molecules of carbon dioxide — a somewhat bad gas.

Feel Less Than Green?

via 3rliving, a local business on 5th Avenue in Park Slope which promotes the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

News, August 1, 2006: NASA Earth Observatory Maps NYC’s Heat Island, Block by Block

Timely enough, given the record temperatures we’re experiencing this week. Tomorrow’s forecast has been “upgraded” from what I reported yesterday: the THI may reach 117F tomorrow.

Temperatures in New York City as measured by Landsat on August 14, 2002, at 10:30am, during a heat wave. Cooler temperatures are blue, hotter are yellow.
Source: NASA Earth Observatory. Map by Robert Simmon, using data from the Landsat Program.
NASA Map of Surface Temperatures in New York City, 2002-08-14

Temperatures in New York City as measured by Landsat on August 14, 2002, at 10:30am, during a heat wave. Cooler temperatures are blue, hotter are yellow.
Source: NASA Earth Observatory. Map by Robert Simmon, using data from the Landsat Program.
NASA Map of Surface Vegetation in New York City

The ability of vegetation to moderate urban temperatures is graphically demonstrated in these paired images from NASA’s Earth Observatory. The spatial resolution of these images is 60 meters per pixel. At that scale, I can just about make out the block where I garden:

Closeup of the vegetation map, centered on central Brooklyn. The green area at the left is Greenwood Cemetery. Prospect Park is the dark green area at the top; the white area within it is Prospect Lake.

Below the park, to the south, Victorian Flatbush, with its tree-lined streets, detached wood frame houses, and front lawns, spreads out as a series of olive green areas. The beige areas in-between the olive are rowhouses and apartment buildings. You can even make out a curving green line across the southern end of this area: That’s the old LIRR right-of-way, long abandoned, and overgrown with trees.

NASA has just published a report on urban heat islands highlighting the research of Stuart Gaffin, an associate research scientist with the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York City, and his colleagues:

In the summer of 2002, Gaffin and his colleagues used satellite temperature data, city-wide land cover maps, and weather data, along with a regional climate model to identify the best strategies for cooling the city. The team estimated how much cooling the city could achieve by planting trees, replacing dark surfaces with lighter ones, and installing vegetation-covered “green roofs.”
The team studied the city as a whole, as well as six “hotspot” areas—including parts of Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn—where air temperatures near the ground were higher than the city-wide average. Each area was serviced by Con Edison, the local power company, so the scientists could compare electricity use. Each area also had available space so that the mitigation strategies the team considered could be modeled in the study and potentially implemented later on.
August 14 fell on one of the hottest heat wave days in New York’s summer of 2002, making it a good day to take the city’s temperature. Measuring the temperature of every last sidewalk, street, parking lot, roof, garden, and grassy area in an entire city isn’t easily done from the ground, so the researchers relied on NASA to take the city’s temperature from the sky. NASA’s Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper collected thermal infrared satellite data. …
Beating the Heat in the World’s Big Cities

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