University of New Hampshire "New England Climate Initiative"

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Type: Program

Status: Ongoing

Source File:


New England Climate Initiative (NECI)
at the University of New Hampshire

Northern New England's quality of life and business are routinely affected by changes in climate and changes in air quality. Understanding of causes, potential range and timing of these changes is essential to the continued economic and social health of rapidly developing regions such as northern New England (Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont).

The New England Climate Initiative (NECI) is an emerging component of the Climate Change Research Center (CCRC), Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space (EOS) at the University of New Hampshire. NECI was established to provide a focal point for the collection, synthesis, interpretation and dissemination of climate change information related to northern New England. NECI's purpose is to provide the public, the private sector, and students (K-12 through university) with an appreciation for natural climate variability, the influence of human activities on climate and the chemical composition of the atmosphere, and the implications and potential range of future climate change.

NECI is comprised of scientists/educators skilled in the interpretation of modern instrumental records plus those with experience in hindcasting modern observational records through the examination of a variety of paleodata (eg., historical, lake sediments, ice cores, tree rings). With this unique combination of skills and data NECI can examine the annual to millennial scale evolution of climate that has resulted in modern climate.

State-of-the-art global scale climate change research expertise provided by researchers from the CCRC will be coupled with an intensive program of data collection focused on northern New England and involving K-12 through university students. Despite the availability of well established instrumental observations back to the 1880's and historical observations extending back to the colonial period, relatively little attention has been paid to climate change in northern New England other than during periods of catastrophic storm activity or remarkable temperature events (the "year without a summer" in 1815). Furthermore, many potential records of climate change contained in documents and natural archives remain unexplored.

Significant national and international attention has been drawn to climate change and changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere. This attention is the result of studies of both modern and past climate. The former have demonstrated the dramatic impact of human activities (eg., greenhouse gases, acid rain, stratospheric ozone depletion, ground level ozone enhancement, deforestation). The latter have revealed the existence of naturally occurring rapid climate change events that operate at scales and magnitudes sufficient to result in major environmental disruptions and to have affected past civilizations.

Through a combination of CCRC research and educationally-based student research programs, NECI plans to develop the data base needed to interpret changes in past climate and the chemical composition of the atmosphere over northern New England. The student researcher programs are intended to both enlighten the participants and to yield spatial coverage of data through the utilization of regionally diverse student researcher teams. Several levels of education are envisioned. K-12 educational activities will be coordinated through teacher education workshops currently active in EOS. University level activities will be developed at the University of New Hampshire through undergraduate projects at a variety of NECI study sites that range through New England's climate extremes from Mt. Washington to the seacoast. In addition CCRC has an active graduate course curriculum.

Over the next five years NECI will develop a climate change data base for northern New England through this unique combination of professional and student research. During this period NECI also plans to develop strong links with northern New England's public and private sectors with the goal of providing practical predictions for climate change in the form of analogs for future climate change and changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere. NECI plans to provide a broad range of predictive capabilities by matching its current expertise in the physical sciences and mathematics with new partners from the social and behavioral sciences, thereby affording predictions that invoke a broad range of human dimensions. The University of New Hampshire's planned Entrepreneurial Campus is expected to provide a cornerstone in this unique association of science, business and education.