Saturday, December 26, 2020

PA Will Experience 42% More Days Of Extremely Heavy Precipitation By 2050 Due To Climate Change

Climate Change Advisory Committee was told Pennsylvania will experience 42 percent more days of extremely heavy precipitation events a year and a 24 percent increase in days with very heavy precipitation events by 2050 due to climate change.

These and other conclusions are contained in the draft 2021 Climate Impacts Assessment DEP and its consultant ICF presented to the Committee on December 22.

The Committee also heard an overview of the draft 2021 PA Climate Action Plan and a presentation by DCNR on carbon capture in Pennsylvania.

Impacts Assessment

The draft 2021 Climate Impacts Assessment is required by Act 70 of 2008 and was completed by Penn State, ICF Consultants, Hamel Environmental Consulting and DEP.

Key findings in the Assessment include--

-- Increasing average temperatures pose the greatest overall risk to Pennsylvania. Average temperatures affect nearly every aspect of life in the Commonwealth, from infrastructure design to energy costs, recreational opportunities, agricultural practices, and the natural environment. Some key potential consequences, if the risk is unmitigated, include:

     -- Increased vulnerability to heat-related illness and mortality risks, especially for Environmental Justice communities

     -- Potential increased energy burden for low-income households

     -- Gradual shifts in growing seasons, suitable habitat range, and ecosystems

     -- Increase in pests, invasive species, and diseases (e.g., Lyme disease)

     -- Change in outdoor recreational opportunities (e.g., severe reduction in snow- and ice- based winter recreation and tourism)

-- Heat waves will become an increasingly common event, and create a particular health and economic risk for vulnerable populations, including the low-income, elderly, and those with cardiovascular conditions. These risks will be particularly acute in urban areas subject to the urban heat island effect.

-- Flood risks to infrastructure is another priority risk, whether caused by heavy rain, riverine  flooding, stormwater flooding, tropical storms, or sea level rise. Impacts to built infrastructure have ripple effects throughout the economy. (more below)

-- Landslides and sea level rise pose relatively low risks statewide, but can cause severe impacts where they occur. For example, sea level rise in the Delaware estuary could drastically change the makeup of the estuary’s ecology and also threaten built infrastructure near the tidal zone. Landslides can have severe consequences if they cut off critical transportation routes, particularly in rural areas.

-- Climate change will not affect all Pennsylvanians equally. Some may be more vulnerable to impacts due to their location, income, housing, or other factors discussed within each hazard profile. As Pennsylvania works to reduce its climate risks, care needs to be taken that these inequitable impacts are addressed, and that adaptation efforts do not inadvertently exacerbate existing inequities.

-- Several of these hazards— especially flooding, severe tropical storms, and landslides— already pose risks today, and could become more likely or severe in the future. Pennsylvania has an opportunity to build on its existing hazard mitigation practices for these risks.

-- The gradual nature of many of these changes, however, also creates an opportunity for the Commonwealth to not only reduce potential harms, but also capitalize on potential positive changes (e.g., ability to grow new crops). This is particularly true for increasing average temperatures and sea level rise.

-- Risks will continue to grow beyond 2050. These risk ratings focus on the likelihood and consequences of each hazard by 2050, but all will continue to change after that.  Pennsylvania will need to consider longer-term risks for infrastructure and other long range planning processes that require assumptions about conditions in the late 21st century or beyond.

Heavy Precipitation Events Increase 

Consistent with findings from prior assessments, extreme rainfall events are projected to increase in magnitude, frequency, and intensity as the century progresses. 

The amount of rainfall during “extremely heavy” precipitation events (which occur less than 1 percent of the time) is projected to rise – a 13 percent increase by mid-century and 20 percent increase by end-of-century.

The magnitude of precipitation during longer rain events will also increase. The annual maximum amount of precipitation during an annual 3-day precipitation event is projected to increase by 11 percent by mid-century and 16 percent by end-of-century. 

Overall, climate projections show a consistent and notable increase in the amount of rainfall during extreme precipitation events. 

Extreme rainfall events are projected to become more frequent; the number of days with 20 historical “very heavy” (17.2 mm - 0.67 inches- on average statewide) and historical “extremely heavy” (30.4 mm - 1.19 inches) precipitation amounts is projected to rise.

Pennsylvania is projected to experience 24 percent more days with observed baseline “very heavy” precipitation amounts and 42 percent more days with historical “extremely heavy” precipitation amounts by mid-century (compared to baseline). 

By end-of-century, the Commonwealth will see 36 percent more days with observed historical “very heavy” precipitation amounts and 67 percent more days with observed baseline “extremely heavy” precipitation amounts. 

The number of days with “very heavy” precipitation will increase across the State. The Southeastern corner of Pennsylvania will continue to experience the highest number of days with very heavy precipitation throughout the century.

This change is already occurring. Pennsylvania weather data shows that over 80 percent of cooperative observer program (COOP) sites surveyed by the state climatologist are seeing an increase in heavy rain events in the 2010s when compared to the 1980s.

Additionally, the number of days with more than 3 inches of rainfall is projected to increase by 52 percent by mid-century and 93 percent by end-of-century (compared to baseline).

Coastal Impacts

The report also estimates coastal impacts along the Delaware Estuary and Lake Erie.

Water levels in the Mid-Atlantic region and the Delaware Estuary are expected to rise by 2.1 feet by mid-century and 4.7 feet by the end of the century.

Along Lake Erie, Warmer temperatures and increased extreme precipitation events are anticipated to have substantial effect.

Lake Erie will be covered by less ice, and ice dunes that typically protect the Presque Isle’s beaches will experience greater erosion.

Higher lake water temperatures and greater runoff from the increased frequency of

extreme precipitation events will boost the likelihood of e-coli and

algal blooms and cause greater bluff instability as runoff erodes the bluff face.

Click Here for a copy of the draft AssessmentClick Here for presentation slides.

Climate Action Plan

Act 70 of 2008 also requires DEP to compile an annual greenhouse gas inventory and develop an action plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, Gov. Wolf issued Executive Order 2019-1 which established a goal of achieving a 26 percent reduction of net GHG emissions statewide by 2025 from 2005 levels, and an 80 percent reduction by 2050 from 2005 levels consistent with the Paris Climate Agreement.

The draft Plan says Pennsylvania may achieve its 2025 reduction goal, but will not meet the 2050 80 percent reduction goal from 2005 levels if the state continues in a “Business As Usual” mode.

Emissions are projected to increase slightly beyond 2025. 2050 emissions are projected to show a 25 percent decrease below 2005 levels with no policy changes. 

The projected decrease in emissions in 2050 is driven largely by lower emissions associated with electricity generation as a result of reduced electricity generation and lower-emitting fuel used to generate electricity as a result of the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards and the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is assumed in the draft Plan.

The draft Plan also includes an outline of recommendations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the goals.

Click Here for a copy of the draft Plan.

Carbon Capture

Also on the agenda is a discussion of carbon capture in Pennsylvania by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

In October, Gov. Wolff announced Pennsylvania would be joining with six other states – Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, Oklahoma and Wyoming – in signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) expressing a commitment to establish and implement a regional CO2 transport infrastructure plan by collaborating and leveraging resources across the participating states.  Read more here.

DCNR has been working on the issue of carbon capture since Act 129 of 2008 directed the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to study the issue of carbon capture and underground storage of carbon dioxide.

A series of reports were produced as a result by DCNR on geological carbon sequestration opportunities in Pennsylvania, assessment of risk, legal issues and insurance and viability of a large-scale carbon capture and sequestration network in the state.

The reports found there would need to be several significant changes in law to make large-scale carbon capture and sequestration feasible in the Commonwealth.

Click Here for more from DCNR on carbon capture and climate change.

In February, Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) announced he would be introducing legislation to create a new Clean Energy Standard with carbon capture as an important part of a new Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. The bill was never introduced.  Read more here.

For further background, the PA Environmental Council released an online StoryMap about carbon capture, utilization and storage in Pennsylvania this passed August.  Read more here.

Proposed RGGI Rule

The Committee will also hear an update on the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Program covering power plants.  

The Environmental Quality Board just completed 10 virtual hearing sessions collecting public comments on the proposal.  Read more here.  The public comment period closes January 14. Read more here.

The next meeting of the Committee is scheduled for February 23 when the Committee plans to discuss measures to adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change on Pennsylvania.

For more information and available handouts, visit DEP’s Climate Change Advisory Committee webpage.  Questions should be directed to Lindsay Byron by sending an email to:

Related Articles - Impact Assessment:

-- DEP Announces Projected Climate Change Impacts Report To Support Planning For Pennsylvania’s Future

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

-- DEP Coastal Zone Committee Jan. 15: $430 Million In Property Value At Risk On Southeast PA Coast Due To Climate Change, Regardless Of Greenhouse Gas Emission Limits

-- New Data Released On Flood Risk Of Every Home In U.S. Due To Climate Change Impacts; 370,200 More Properties In PA At Substantial Risk

-- 71% Increase In Very Heavy Precipitation In Last 54 Years, 831,000 Pennsylvanians Living At Risk On Floodplains

Related Articles This Week - Climate:

-- Op-Ed: Keep Pennsylvania’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative On Track - Rep. Greg Vitali 

-- Op-Ed: DEP Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Is Not About Climate Change - Sen. Langerholc & Rep. Rigby

-- Op-Ed: PA Needs More Jobs, RGGI Will Create Them By Investing In Energy Efficiency - Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance

-- 3 States, D.C Sign On To Regional Transportation Climate Initiative: PA Does Not Sign, But Commits To Individual Actions To Reduce Climate Changing Emissions From Transportation

[Posted: December 26, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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