Thursday, February 27, 2020

DEP Previews New Climate Impact Assessment: More Extreme Precipitation, More Livestock, More Manure, Less Effective BMPs; And SE Coastal Impact Assessment

On February 25, DEP’s Climate Change Advisory Committee was given a preview of the next Climate Impact Assessment report done by Penn State focused on extreme precipitation events, impacts on achieving water quality cleanup goals and infrastructure vulnerability through 2050.
The actual report will be available sometime in the next two months or so.
Also on the agenda was a presentation and discussion of the Coastal Effects Of Climate Change in Southeast PA study completed by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission which shows $430 million in property value is at risk in coastal areas along the Delaware Estuary in Southeast Pennsylvania through 2050.  
Climate Impact Assessment
Dr. James Shortle, Distinguished Penn State Professor of Agricultural and Environmental Economics, Director of the College of Agricultural Sciences Environment and Natural Resources Institute, Director of the Center for Nutrient Pollution Solutions, and a tag team of other faculty members made the presentation on the new Assessment.
The findings in the Assessment cover the next 30 years. While it may seem like 2050 is far into the future, think of it this way, the changes outlined in the report are likely to happen in the same timeframe as last 30 years-- from 1990 to today-- which seems pretty short.
Extreme Precipitation
Some of the key findings in the assessment include--
-- Pennsylvania will see a significant increase in precipitation, the largest increase-- more than 15 percent-- coming in the Fall.
-- Total precipitation and extreme precipitation are both likely to continue increasing in the coming decades.
-- Despite increasing precipitation, soil moisture is expected to decline in all seasons due to higher temperatures.
[A Center for Rural Pennsylvania study has already found a 71 percent increase in very heavy precipitation events has occurred over in the Northeast United States, including Pennsylvania, over the last 54 years.]
Key findings include--
-- Pennsylvania’s poultry inventory could more than double in size as these operations, which are sensitive to heating and cooling costs, move from further south into the state.
-- Inventory of beef cattle, hogs and pigs will also increase for the same reason, but in smaller amounts.
-- Spatial rearranging of the dairy industry is likely to occur, with declines in the southeast counties and increases in northwest counties.
-- Manure nitrogen and phosphorus could increase in almost all counties as more animals produce more manure, with the most significant increases in the southcentral and southeast parts of the state.
-- These changes could exacerbate water quality issues, especially in the Susquehanna and Delaware River Basins.
-- Livestock accounts for two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s agricultural product sales.
Meeting Water Quality Cleanup Goals
Here are some key findings--
-- Climate changes will decrease the effectiveness of some best management practices and require adaptations to BMP design, placement and maintenance due to increases in precipitation, more frequent extreme events.
-- Landscape responses will be required to deal with these issues, rather than relying on scattered BMPs in a watershed; strategic targeting of critical sources of pollution or runoff will be required for cost-effective and efficient BMP placement.
-- BMPs will also have to do double-duty not only reducing polluted run off, but helping to manage stormwater.
-- Climate changes will increase local benefits of BMPs that promote resilience in agriculture and keep soil and water resources in local watersheds.
[DEP is working with Villanova’s Urban Stormwater Partnership and its Center for Resilient Water Systems evaluating the effectiveness of the best management practices in DEP’s 13-year old Stormwater Management Manual that will include how climate change will affect design parameters.]. 
Infrastructure Vulnerability
Several key findings on infrastructure vulnerability--
-- Electric Distribution: heavy precipitation can induce landslides and flooding making substations particularly vulnerable; nearly all major electrical substations in Southwest Pennsylvania lie in identified landslide hazard zones.
-- Natural Gas Infrastructure: Landslides are an emerging risk for natural gas infrastructure and research is needed to develop monitoring requirements. 
-- Rail Infrastructure: Increased vulnerability to flooding and landslides, slope maintenance needs and responsibilities are not always clear.
[Although highways were not the focus of the Climate Impact Assessment, PennDOT completed an Extreme Weather Vulnerability Study in 2017.  
[The June 2018 update to Pennsylvania’s Federal Hazard Mitigation Plan submitted by the PA Emergency Management Agency to FEMA for the first time included a more “robust” evaluation of how climate change would affect the risk of flooding and other natural disasters in the state.]
Previous Impact Assessments
DEP published a more comprehensive Climate Change Impact Assessment, also done by Penn State, in 2015 for public comment, but never finalized the document.  Click Here for a copy of the Assessment.
On February 26 of last year, DEP told the Advisory Committee the expected impacts of climate change on the Commonwealth have not changed in broad terms--
-- Climate change could worsen air quality: increasing pollen concentration, mold concentration, and ground-level ozone, causing longer allergy seasons, aggravating asthma, and increasing mortality among at-risk populations.
-- Vector-borne diseases like West Nile virus and Lyme disease could increase due to more favorable conditions for mosquitoes and deer ticks.
-- Increased precipitation in many parts of the state could lead to higher flood risks and threaten safe drinking water supplies.
-- Warmer temperatures will bring more favorable conditions for agricultural pests like weeds and insects.
-- Severe storms – strengthened by warmer temperatures – could affect reliable electric service and threaten current electric infrastructure.
-- Some changes will be positive: longer growing seasons and more tolerable temperatures for crops not currently grown in Pennsylvania offer new opportunities for farmers.
SE PA Coastal Climate Impacts
Chris Linn, from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, gave a presentation on the Coastal Effects of Climate Change in Southeastern PA online story map which shows $430 million in property value is at risk in coastal areas along the Delaware Estuary in Southeast Pennsylvania through 2050.
The report notes Greater Philadelphia area is expected to see an increase of from 3 to 8 degrees above current temperatures, depending on future trends in greenhouse gas emissions.
Increasing temperatures are predicted to cause rising sea levels across the globe.  Along the North Atlantic coast of the United States, sea level is predicted to rise at a higher rate than the global average. 
This is due to many region-specific geologic and oceanographic processes, but a primary factor is that land in this region is sinking slowly due to subsidence.
The water levels of the tidal section of the Delaware River will rise as sea level rises along the Atlantic Coast. These rising water levels will be a permanent change to the landscape and will introduce new flooding vulnerabilities along the Delaware that communities will need to address.
The analysis shown in the story map calculates coastal flood heights for the years 2050 and 2100 by adding projected sea level rise onto the flood height calculated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the current 1 percent flood (also known as “100-year” flood).
In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, sea level is expected to rise approximately another 1.0 to 1.8 feet by 2050 (1.4 feet being the central estimate) from a base year of 2000) and could rise approximately 1.7 to 4.5 feet by 2100 (3.4 feet being the central estimate), depending on the low or high greenhouse gas emissions levels projected.
The Commission’s analysis found regardless of whether a high- or low-emissions scenario is used to forecast sea level rise, the projections for 2050 are very similar
The maps in the analysis compares differences in areas flooded during storms and the 100-year flood event and areas that would be chronically flooded because of permanent sea level rise.
This analysis indicates approximately 42 miles of roadway, 75 community assets, and 498 structures are at risk of chronic inundation in 2050.
The property value at risk of chronic inundation is $430 million. That number climbs to $920 million in property value at risk in the high emissions scenario.
The story map presentation also reviews the potential savings in national flood insurance premiums if communities in the coastal zone participated in the federal Community Rating System which awards points to communities for a variety of activities, including activities relating to public information, mapping and regulations, flood hazard mitigation, and warning and response.
Visit the Coastal Effects of Climate Change in Southeastern PA story map that will be used in the presentation and explore how coastal flooding may affect you.
Click Here for more on climate resiliency from the Delaware Regional Planning Commission.
For more information and available handouts, visit the DEP Climate Change Advisory Committee webpage.  Questions should be directed to Lindsay Byron by calling 717-772-8951 or send an email to:
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[Posted: February 27, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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