Tom Anderson, New York Program and Communications Coordinator for Save the Sound, recently asked LISS and Dr. K questions involving management efforts to restore and protect the Sound. Here’s question two about adapting to climate change.
This question is enough to write a book on. If you don’t believe me, check out the book our program just wrote: Long Island Sound: Prospects for an Urban Sea. You can get it on Springer’s website or on Amazon… makes a great holiday gift (just kidding).
The short answer to your question is that there are two primary ways to address this. The first is through incorporation of the principles of adaptive management into environmental decision making, something we have worked very hard to implement. Adaptive management is a structured iterative decision making framework designed to reduce uncertainty over time by using a robust monitoring program to address and refine program goals over time. Unfortunately, in the present budget climate, enhancing monitoring programs is often seen as a low priority, because the results are less immediate than other endeavors. However, if we want to have long term success, we need careful monitoring programs to help us understand the impacts of our management actions, and how present and future climate changes are shifting the baseline from which we try to measure.
The second is by incorporating anticipated climate impacts into proposed legislation. For example, in discussions about the minimum elevation above the water table which is acceptable for the construction of septic tanks, we need to factor in predicted changes in water table over the lifespan of that septic system rather than allowing a system to be built at the minimum acceptable level today, only to have the water table rise by a foot over the next 20-30 years and have to deal with either forcing a homeowner into a costly upgrade that could have been avoided, or coping with the consequences of a failing septic system that could have been avoided. We need to make similar considerations when calculating storm surge and potential impacts from rarer events like hurricanes. What was once a 100-year storm in 1980 is now a 20-30 year storm, both because of changes in sea level, and because of warming water contributing to increased storm frequency. Similarly, what is now a 500-year storm (and therefore outside of the planning horizon) is likely to become a 100-year storm within the next few decades, and thus, should be considered in resiliency planning efforts.
Jason Krumholz, aka Dr., K, is the NOAA liaison to EPA’s Long Island Sound Office. Dr. Krumholz received his doctorate in oceanography at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography.
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Send an e-mail to Jason Krumholz.. Dr. Krumholz is a marine scientist working as the NOAA liaison to the EPA Long Island Sound Office. View more of Dr. K’s questions and answers on the Ask Dr. K blog.