A ‘sobering’ look at the effects of climate change on the Delaware Estuary
“The challenges we are facing are really immense,” a keynote speaker on Monday warned.
| January 30, 2023
Climate trends in the Delaware Estuary and Basin reflect a blend of spiking temperatures, with a growing number of 90-degree-plus days, increasing and intensifying precipitation, and a rapid rise in sea level, a Penn State professor warned on Monday.
The professor, Raymond Najjar, offered what he described as an “exciting, daunting and sobering” assessment of the effects of climate change on the basin.
Najjar, who is a professor of Oceanography in the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science at Pennsylvania State University, was the keynote speaker to kick off a three-day environmental conference exploring the health and future of the estuary and basin.
The conference, the Delaware Estuary Science and Environment Summit, sponsored by the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, features 80 presentations on a range of topics.
Headlining the conference, which is being held in Atlantic City, N.J., was the release of a technical report deeply diving into the quality, quantity and overall health of the river and basin.
Najjar, who has conducted research on a variety of topics in oceanography, climate science, and hydrology, said warming was happening rapidly and accelerating throughout the bay.
Temperatures have risen 2 degree Celsius over the decades and show no signs of slowing.
Sea level has risen and episodes of flooding have also increased. Fitting this overall pattern of warming, indices of snow and ice have fallen as have cases of ice jams, he said.
“Winter is becoming less like it used to be,” he said.
The causes of flooding are cumulative, with heavier precipitation combining with river and ocean flooding. The number of flooding days per year is growing to five to 10, compared to up to three per year.
Greenhouse gasses are behind the changes, which will continue to be felt for years to come.
“The challenges we are facing are really immense,” he said.
While he acknowledged that his remarks were a “sobering” way to start the summit, he did highlight some successes.
He said dissolved oxygen levels in the water have improved, the salt line has been kept at bay and air quality has dramatically improved. He said the world might have reached its peak emission levels already.
He urged attendees to be engaged in these issues, by voting, supporting research and reducing their carbon footprint.
The summit continues through Wednesday. Follow @delawarecurrent on Twitter for live updates, or look for the tags #PDEScienceSummit, #PDESummit23 and #DRBCClimateForum