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Radley M. Horton, Vivien Gornitz, Daniel A. Bader, Alex C. Ruane, Richard Goldberg, and Cynthia Rosenzweig

Abstract

This paper describes a time-sensitive approach to climate change projections that was developed as part of New York City’s climate change adaptation process and that has provided decision support to stakeholders from 40 agencies, regional planning associations, and private companies. The approach optimizes production of projections given constraints faced by decision makers as they incorporate climate change into long-term planning and policy. New York City stakeholders, who are well versed in risk management, helped to preselect the climate variables most likely to impact urban infrastructure and requested a projection range rather than a single “most likely” outcome. The climate projections approach is transferable to other regions and is consistent with broader efforts to provide climate services, including impact, vulnerability, and adaptation information. The approach uses 16 GCMs and three emissions scenarios to calculate monthly change factors based on 30-yr average future time slices relative to a 30-yr model baseline. Projecting these model mean changes onto observed station data for New York City yields dramatic changes in the frequency of extreme events such as coastal flooding and dangerous heat events. On the basis of these methods, the current 1-in-10-year coastal flood is projected to occur more than once every 3 years by the end of the century and heat events are projected to approximately triple in frequency. These frequency changes are of sufficient magnitude to merit consideration in long-term adaptation planning, even though the precise changes in extreme-event frequency are highly uncertain.

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Cynthia Rosenzweig, Radley M. Horton, Daniel A. Bader, Molly E. Brown, Russell DeYoung, Olga Dominguez, Merrilee Fellows, Lawrence Friedl, William Graham, Carlton Hall, Sam Higuchi, Laura Iraci, Gary Jedlovec, Jack Kaye, Max Loewenstein, Thomas Mace, Cristina Milesi, William Patzert, Paul W. Stackhouse Jr., and Kim Toufectis

A partnership between Earth scientists and institutional stewards is helping the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) prepare for a changing climate and growing climate-related vulnerabilities. An important part of this partnership is an agency-wide Climate Adaptation Science Investigator (CASI) Workgroup. CASI has thus far initiated 1) local workshops to introduce and improve planning for climate risks, 2) analysis of climate data and projections for each NASA Center, 3) climate impact and adaptation toolsets, and 4) Center-specific research and engagement.

Partnering scientists with managers aligns climate expertise with operations, leveraging research capabilities to improve decision-making and to tailor risk assessment at the local level. NASA has begun to institutionalize this ongoing process for climate risk management across the entire agency, and specific adaptation strategies are already being implemented.

A case study from Kennedy Space Center illustrates the CASI and workshop process, highlighting the need to protect launch infrastructure of strategic importance to the United States, as well as critical natural habitat. Unique research capabilities and a culture of risk management at NASA may offer a pathway for other organizations facing climate risks, promoting their resilience as part of community, regional, and national strategies.

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