By Cynthia Rosenzweig, Radley Horton, I. Sam Higuchi & Christina Hudson
Climate Adaptation Science Investigator Work Group (CASI)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Centers are currently experiencing heavy downpours, heatwaves and coastal flooding, and these are expected to increase in the coming decades due to climate variability and change. The United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) 2009 Climate Impacts Report concluded that “[h]uman-induced climate change is happening now[, the] impacts are already apparent[, and g]reater impacts are projected, particularly if [greenhouse] gas emissions continue unabated.”
Later in 2009, President Obama issued Executive Order 13514, titled “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance,” which mandates that all agencies “evaluate agency climate-change risks and vulnerabilities to manage the effects of climate change on the agency’s operations and mission in both the short– and long-term.1 ” NASA is responding to this mandate through an approach that brings its scientists and operational stewards together to investigate and to manage climate risks.
Climate extremes and variability pose a range of hazards to NASA Centers and facilities throughout the U.S (Fig. 1). During 2011 alone, NASA Centers have been affected by tornados, flooding and wildfires. The tornado outbreak of April 27 in Mississippi and Alabama, in addition to killing more than 300 people, led to the closing of Marshall Space Center for 11 days as the Huntsville region dealt with power outages and widespread damage. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in California has experienced both extreme flooding and wildfires during the past year (Fig. 2). Hurricane Irene in August 2011 produced a large storm surge near Langley Research Center in Virginia, although the Center was spared significant damage.
In recent years the effects of other hurricanes on NASA Centers have been more substantial. Hurricane Ike in 2008 caused flood and wind damage at the Johnson Space Center in Texas (Fig. 3), with approximately three-quarters of all roofs sustaining at least minor damage (NASA, 2008). Hurricane Frances in 2004 caused damage to the large Vehicle Assembly Building and other facilities at NASA Kennedy Space Center – KSC (Fig. 4). In the aftermath of the devastation associated with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, many displaced local residents turned to the Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana as a safe haven.
Future climate hazards at NASA Centers and facilities are likely to include more frequent and extreme heat events, sea level rise and exacerbated coastal flooding, more extreme precipitation events and changes in water availability. These changing climate hazards may adversely affect NASA missions and operations by damaging critical infrastructure while threatening human and natural resources. Specific mission-related vulnerabilities could include: launch capabilities, space operations, ground systems, and training and test facilities due to such impacts as shifting reliability and increasing water and energy costs, and changes in safety and operations related to extreme events, such as wildfire and floods.
By developing climate adaptation strategies tailored to the specific risks and impacts anticipated, NASA decision-makers are able to minimize negative effects of climate extremes and climate change while leveraging positive outcomes. For example, at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, impervious surfaces are being replaced with natural vegetation and porous pavement to reduce flooding and to manage stormwater.
Because effective risk management requires the best possible understanding of hazards, NASA organized the Climate Adaptation Science Investigator Work Group (CASI) to expand collaboration among its Earth scientists, applications researchers and institutional stewards. The collaborative approach is captured in CASI’s mission statement: “To advance and apply NASA’s scientific expertise and products to develop climate adaptation strategies that support NASA’s overall mission by minimizing risks to each center’s operations, physical and biological assets and personnel.”
While CASI is principally a science effort, its foundation rests on partnering with representatives from many Center organizations, including infrastructure, environmental management, master planning, human resources, and emergency planning and response, all working together to disseminate and to use climate science knowledge tailored to enable development of center-specific adaptation solutions.
CASI is supported by funding from NASA’s Earth Science Division and Applied Sciences Program, and is led by Cynthia Rosenzweig, Ph.D., of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). The team at GISS interacts with a lead CASI scientist at eight NASA Centers. Together the team has engaged in a range of activities since CASI’s launch in the summer of 2010 including:
Downscaled regional climate projections were generated for each NASA Center based on a combination of observed data and climate model simulations. Sixteen coupled global climate models (GCMs), which mathematically represent the evolution of the climate system, including the coupling of the ocean, atmosphere, land and ice, were used to sample a range of possible responses to greenhouse gases and aerosols.
Because current-generation GCMs do not resolve areas smaller than approximately 10,000 km22, techniques such as statistical downscaling and bias correction are used to better resolve the spatial scales of relevance to decision makers. The CASI team used the Bias-corrected and Spatially-Disaggregated (BCSD) Climate Projections at 1/8 degree (approximately ~12 km) resolution for the continental United States derived from the World Climate Research Programme’s (WCRP’s) Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3 (CMIP3). This multi-model dataset is available at: http://gdo-dcp.ucllnl.org/downscaled_cmip3_projections/ (Maurer et al., 2007). The outputs from this product, which provide monthly results at 1/8 degree spatial resolution, were further downscaled using observed daily data from a reliable weather station near each NASA Center. This additional downscaling allows for projections of changes in extreme events, such as additional heat waves and fewer cold events.
Climate uncertainty associated with future concentration of greenhouse gases and aerosols was addressed by use of three different scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions and aerosol concentrations scenarios: high (A2), medium (A1B) and low (B1), representing various population, economic and technology pathways (Fig. 5) (Nakicenovic, 2000). During the decade since the development of these scenarios, actual greenhouse gas emissions have generally been as high or higher than projected under any of them (Le Quere, 2009).
Using historical data, downscaled climate model outputs and greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, the CASI team has developed climate products for each of NASA’s Centers and facilities. Core climate products include analysis of: 1.) historical trends and variability, 2.) projected changes in mean temperature (Fig. 6), precipitation and sea level and 3.) quantitative and qualitative projections for extreme events (Table 1).
2.) Customized Research
Each Center faces unique climate hazards and impacts. The following list describes the major research accomplishments at each Center during the first phase of the effort:
By: Ray Wheeler, John Shaffer, Carlton Hall, Brean Duncan, John Drese, Dave Breininger, Eric Stolen, Paul Schmalzer, Doug Scheidt, Ron Schaub, Tim Kozusko, Tammy Foster
Kennedy Space Center and the associated Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) and Canaveral National Sea Shore are co-located on the Cape Canaveral Barrier Island complex of east central Florida. The region has high biodiversity, rich ecosystem services and roughly $10 billion in national assets for assured access to space. These facilities include space vehicle launch and landing facilities, numerous vehicle and payload processing facilities, fuel handling systems, and several industrial and office complexes. Tourism in the area, associated with KSC and the rich natural resources, has been valued at more than $2 billion annually.
A climate hazard vulnerabilities assessment was conducted using LIDAR-based elevation data and GIS data layers from the KSC Ecological Program and Master Planning databases developed during the last 25 years. Vulnerable infrastructure has been designated in the following categories:
• Septic systems, storm sewers, drainage ditches;
• Wastewater and drinking water distribution systems;
• Electrical distribution, communications systems;
• Solid waste management units, potential release locations;
• Natural gas distribution systems;
• Land use and land cover, protected species habitats;
• Archaeological sites.
Results from the vulnerability analysis for roads at KSC are shown in Figure 7 for a 1.2 m sea level rise rapid ice melt scenario, which could occur within 65 to 85 years based on CASI climate projections.
Based on results of the vulnerability assessment and Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Risks Workshop, a range of adaptation steps are being proposed and implemented to reduce risks. The KSC Master Planning Office is incorporating results of the initial CASI analyses into their facilities planning process to address potential sea level rise hazards and future protected species habitat management needs. The KSC Dune Vulnerability Team is addressing potential sea level rise and storm surge impacts to coastal facilities and infrastructure through efforts to establish a beach nourishment project to be implemented in the coming years. Finally, the KSC Sustainability Program is incorporating information in the planning process for facilities design to address energy use.
Interactions with KSC Management and Stakeholders
CASI research results have been presented to the KSC Center Sustainability Officer, Head of the Center Operations Directorate, Environmental Management Branch Chief and Head of the Master Planning Office. Discussions have been held with land managers from CCAFS, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, St. Johns River Water Management District and the EPA National Estuaries Program.
Priority Research Needs
The CASI initiative has identified information needs to continue the effort to improve understanding of climate risks facing Kennedy Space Center. These include:
• Impacts of elevated carbon dioxide and temperature on vegetation communities, especially on their ability to store carbon and to regulate water use;
• Risk assessment of the potential redistribution of chemical contaminants from soils and groundwater under changing climate conditions.
CASI scientists have conducted an inventory of the climate and impact data, models, research and projects relevant to each Center and its surrounding region. This inventory is grounded in NASA’s vast array of satellite and earth-based monitoring data. These data sets provide information about trends and variability in earth’s climate (e.g., planetary energy balance; Fig. 8) and weather (e.g., tropical cyclones). Remotely sensed data also contribute to our understanding of how climate and other stressors are impacting earth systems, such as biomes (e.g., forest health), agriculture (e.g., crop yields), oceans and coasts (e.g., phytoplankton productivity), and atmospheric composition (e.g., air pollution). Another key NASA activity is dynamic simulation of Earth’s climate system, through use of such products as the NASA GISS Global Climate Model (GCM) (Schmidt et al, 2006).
Outgoing Longwave Radiation on August 2, 2006 over the United States during the Oppressive Summer Heat Wave of 2006.
In addition to these products, the CASI team is identifying baseline information about each Center (e.g., how critical infrastructure has historically been affected by extreme weather) and the surrounding communities (e.g., adaptation assessments that are underway or planned). Products identified through the CASI inventories can be used to reduce uncertainties associated with climate and climate impacts while facilitating collaboration in adaptation with communities that surround NASA centers.
4.) Co-Leading Adaptation Workshops
The CASI Team co-leads Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Risks Workshops with members of NASA’s Office of Strategic Infrastructure. The purpose of these three-day workshops is to: 1.) share climate information (historic, current and projected) specific to the Center’s region both internally and with community neighbors; 2.) characterize the risk of current and future climate on the Center’s assets and capabilities; 3.) begin to develop climate adaptation strategies and to understand how to integrate these strategies, as well as climate information, into existing management plans and processes; 4.) identify future research needs and 5.) start to coordinate activities with master planners, facilities and environmental managers, and regional stakeholders who participate in the workshops.
These site-specific Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Risks workshops, comprising both plenary and breakout sessions are built around an 8-step adaptation assessment framework first applied in New York City by the New York City Panel on Climate Change, which has been modified for consistency with NASA needs (NPCC, 2010). To date, workshops have been held at Kennedy Space Center (May 2010), Ames Research Center (February 2011) and Langley Research Center (September 2011).
What’s Next for CASI
Targeted research continues to be developed to address both specific Center vulnerabilities and needs, and to expand CASI’s spatial scope to larger regions. During the next year, the CASI team will evaluate and use for Center research: 1.) Retscreen (Renewable Energy Screen) Monitoring, Targeting and Verification Tool (MTVT; http://www.retscreen.net), an interactive program that can incorporate weather and climate information into buildings’ energy conservation; 2.) remote sensing and modeling of Center impacts using the Terrestrial Observation and Prediction System (TOPS; http://ecocast.arc.nasa.gov/) modeling system and 3.) storm surge modeling under various sea level rise scenarios.
CASI collaboration and outreach will also be expanded during the next year. CASI science results will be presented at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco in December 2011 and, for the second consecutive year, CASI will present at the Environment, Energy Security and Sustainability Symposium (E2S2) in New Orleans in May 2012. CASI presentations will also be given to other agencies engaged in climate assessment and adaptation. These efforts, which are aligned with activities such as the National Climate Assessment (globalchange.gov) and the Council on Environmental Quality’s Climate Change Adaptation Task Force (whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/), will encourage effective coordination across agencies and help ensure that key takeaways from NASA’s unique partnership between its research and operational arms are shared with as broad an audience as possible.Issue No. 15, 2011
Acknowledgements: The authors wish to thank Jack Kaye and Lawrence Friedl of NASA Earth Sciences Division for their stewardship and support of CASI. The authors also wish to thank Olga Dominguez and James Leatherwood from NASA’s Office of Strategic Infrastructure for their pioneering efforts in building partnerships between NASA’s science and stewardship communities. Finally, the authors thank the CASI Center scientists for bringing CASI to life at each NASA Center.
Cynthia Rosenzweig, Ph.D. and Lead CASI Scientist, is a Senior Research Scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies where she heads the Climate Impacts Group. She was a Coordinating Lead Author of the IPCC Working Group II Fourth Assessment Report. A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Rosenzweig joins impact models with climate models to project future outcomes of both land-based and urban systems under altered climate conditions. She is a Professor at Barnard College and a Senior Research Scientist at the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
Radley M. Horton received his Ph.D. in Earth and Environmental Sciences in 2007 from Columbia University. He is Deputy Lead for the CASI project and is a Coordinating Lead Author for the Northeast Chapter of the 2013 National Climate Assessment. Horton is also Research Coordinator for the NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA)-funded Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast. His research interests include regional climate projections in support of decision-making across a range of sectors and contexts.
I. Sam Higuchi, Jr. has been a civil servant in the federal government since 1984. He has worked as a research scientist, regulatory engineer, facility environmental coordinator, civil engineer, environmental engineer, policy and program analyst, and program manager. Higuchi holds academic degrees in engineering, science, law and public administration. He is currently working for the National Aeronautics & Space Administration.
Christina C. Hudson received her M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy from Johns Hopkins University and her B.A. in Art History from Carleton College. A member of the management team in SAIC’s Energy, Environment and Infrastructure Business Unit, she currently supports NASA with sustainability, climate impacts and adaptation, training and facilitation.
2 Downscaling here refers to the process of generating projections at a spatial resolution that is finer than Global Climate Models (GCMs).
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