Education, Individual Impact Drive Mission of New Climate Change Center

Former Connecticut Commissioner of Environmental Protection and Administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency Gina McCarthy has made the shift from government to academia, with the launch of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (C-CHANGE) at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. C-CHANGE is a new collaboration between Harvard University and Google that will seek to reduce the use of harmful chemicals in building products and materials.  C-CHANGE is committed to transforming science into meaningful actions that will deliver a healthier, more just, and sustainable world, according to the university.

The Center aims to ensure that government officials, business leaders, and the public have access to the best science so they can understand the health and environmental challenges they face, why it matters to them, and how they can get engaged.

McCarthy headed the Connecticut DEP from 2004 to early 2009, and left to become head of EPA's air and radiation office before advancing to the nation’s top environmental protection job in 2013.

Appearing on Conversations on Health Care, a podcast produced by Middletown-based Community Health Center Inc., McCarthy discussed past, present and future.  On the program, hosted by President and Co-founder Mark Masselli and Senior Vice President and Clinical Director Margaret Flinter, McCarthy said C-CHANGE was working to make climate change “very personal, and actionable to individuals, and families and businesses.”  She added, “information is power… I want people to have that information.”

McCarthy said she understands the concerns of some in the environmental community regarding Trump Administration efforts to roll back many of the Obama-era policies, but she said it will be tougher to accomplish than most believe.

“What we did was follow the science, we followed the law, we did great public process around it and I think we did a really good job,” McCarthy said, noting that many of the rule-change proposals of the past year or so are not yet final, and may not become final. “They’re going to have a very hard time.”

Her work at C-CHANGE is designed to accelerate and strengthen public education on climate change and pollution issues, bringing the science down to the individual level, highlighting the impacts on people, rather than the planet.

Reflecting on her time leading EPA, McCarthy said “We showed you can make progress environmentally, to preserve and protect public health, and our natural resources, but you can also, at the same time, do them in very cost effective, reasonable ways that in fact enhanced our economy and jobs.”

Last spring, Gov. Malloy appointed McCarthy to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Green Bank.

At the C-CHANGE kick-off this spring, Harvard Chan School Dean Michelle Williams said “The Center will pave the way for new research and student engagement on energy systems, food and nutrition, healthier buildings, and products to benefit our school, our country, and the world.”  McCarthy spoke about the importance of broadening support for environmental and climate action by calling attention to the impact of climate change on people’s health and the solutions to address it.

“Climate change isn’t about saving the planet and it’s not about politics, it’s about our kids and making sure they have the opportunity for a healthy, sustainable world,” said McCarthy. “C-CHANGE will ensure that cutting-edge science produced by Harvard Chan School is actionable—that the public understands it, and that it gets into the hands of decision-makers so that science drives decisions.”

C-CHANGE, the Harvard Office for Sustainability, and Google will work together to develop a set of public tools and resources that use the latest scientific research to inform decision-making by large institutions, purchasers, and manufacturers to help transform the marketplace to healthier alternatives. The collaboration,  to the university, aims to improve public health and the well-being of communities, reduce the use of harmful chemicals and leverage lessons learned to create a model that can be replicated by other organizations.

Moving forward, the two groups intend to continue partnering with Harvard’s schools to use the campus as a living lab to test new ideas and verify performance.

 

Struggles Continue for Thousands Who Relocated from Puerto Rico to Connecticut in Storm Aftermath

About 13,000 residents of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who arrived in Connecticut in the aftermath of the hurricanes Maria and Irma continue to struggle with obtaining basic needs including adequate housing, food, medical care and jobs, according to a survey commissioned by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. The vast majority of those who have come to Connecticut, over 70 percent, have extremely low incomes (under $30,000), adding a heavy responsibility on an already over-extended and resource-limited Puerto Rican community in Connecticut, given the extreme levels of need that are present in the community, even before the storms, the Foundation pointed out.

Approximately 1,300 people participated in the survey, which utilized online and in-person questionnaires in English and Spanish and field research.  It was conducted by the University of Connecticut’s El Instituto: Institute for Latina/o Caribbean and Latin American Studies and the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College. The objective was to understand the long-term impact of displacement on Puerto Rican households in the Greater Hartford region.

“The Hartford region has one of the highest concentrations of people of Puerto Rican origin outside Puerto Rico and last year’s hurricanes brought thousands more to the region, many of whom will likely stay,” said Scott Gaul, the Hartford Foundation’s director of Research and Evaluation. “The hurricanes were an unprecedented event, but we can anticipate similar crises will happen again. The survey is one tool to help the Hartford region understand the needs of evacuees and the potential long-term impacts of displacement.”

The survey found that while some households surveyed had initially relied on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for funding basic needs, the majority of those affected relied on Greater Hartford’s nonprofit organizations, school districts and family members for support.

During the 2018 Legislative Session, the Connecticut General Assembly  approved $4.4 million in education and housing assistance for displace residents, including $1.5 million in aid to the departments of education, housing and social services.

More than half of respondents (56%) mentioned that it was very likely (36%) or somewhat likely (22%) that kin would relocate from the Caribbean to Connecticut, with most of those relatives and friends staying with respondents.  Those living in Hartford’s outer ring suburbs were relatively less likely (72%) to have kin in the Caribbean than those living in Hartford or its immediate suburbs. And they expect nearly 1,500 additional people to arrive from Puerto Rico in the wake of the hurricane.

In addition, those responding to the survey indicated that they expected displaced kin to remain in Connecticut into the medium and long terms. Nearly a third of respondents (32%) reported that kin would stay in Connecticut for a few months, and a quarter (26%) would remain for a few years.

The survey also found:

  • The most pressing need for respondents hosting displaced Puerto Ricans is lodging, with fully one-third indicating that housing was one the biggest needs they face.
  • Nearly three-fifths of respondents indicated housing was displaced person’s first order need, followed by 16 percent who mentioned it in second order.
  • Food was a first order need for one-fifth of survey respondents’ displaced friends and relatives and second order need for 35 percent.

Survey respondents identified housing issues and insufficient food as the most critical needs they are facing in Connecticut, along with healthcare, in the after aftermath of the crisis. These are needs not only of those who are in the state already, but of those who are very likely to arrive in the short term,” wrote Professors Charles R. Venator-Santiago, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and El Instituto and Carlos Vargas Ramos, Center for Puerto Rican Studies.

"These needs are adding a heavy responsibility on an already over-extended and resource-limited Puerto Rican community in Connecticut, given the extreme levels of need that are present in the community and pre-dated the crisis created by hurricanes Irma and Maria," the report stated.

Results from the survey are aimed at helping to inform long-term planning and action by funders, nonprofits, municipalities and schools.  The Foundation intends to work with community organizations and leaders in the region to disseminate and act on survey results.

The report indicated that preliminary estimates by the government of Puerto Rico indicate that approximately 70,000 residential properties were totally destroyed, with an additional 300,000 partially damaged residences. As of February 2018, 1.1 million households had applied for disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Nuclear Attack on NYC Could Impact CT, Report Suggests

The illustration in a recent edition of New York magazine has drawn some attention in Connecticut.  Accompanying an article describing the anticipated aftermath in the tri-state region of a nuclear attack on New York City, the potential path of nuclear fall-out was shown to extend through Connecticut towns including Greenwich, Stamford, Wilton and others, reaching as far north as the town of Monroe. Within two hours of an attack on Times Square, the article described, a plume of radioactive fallout would “unfurl 60 miles beyond the city, lingering for weeks, contaminating food and water supplies.”

The article explains that “In the hours and days after a nuclear blast, a massive plume of fallout would unfurl past the city’s borders and up the Eastern Seaboard, scattering radioactive dust on everything in its path: people, homes, farms, animals, forests, rivers. The most radioactive region of the plume would reach its full length of 20 miles an hour after the explosion, exposing every unsheltered person in the area to toxic levels of radiation; if it were to spread north from Times Square, it would reach as far as New Rochelle. Within a day, this danger zone would shrink to about a mile in length. Within a week, it would have dissipated completely.

A much bigger but less radioactive region of the plume, called the hot zone, would reach its maximum length of 60 miles — extending, say, as far north as Monroe, Connecticut — two hours after the explosion. A week later, the hot zone would still extend 20 miles from the city, and it would take many more weeks for it to disappear altogether. Although radioactivity in the hot zone would likely be too weak to cause any acute symptoms of radiation sickness, it could still subtly damage the human body and increase the chance of cancer.

How far and in what direction a plume of fallout travels depends on the altitude of the mushroom cloud, as well as temperature, wind, and other meteorological variables. Within an hour of an explosion, FEMA’s Interagency Modeling and Atmospheric Assessment Center would begin to track the plume’s movement, providing updates and projections to federal, state, and local authorities. They would use the information to evacuate people in the opposite direction of the plume and warn people in the plume’s path to seek shelter and avoid consuming any exposed water or food.”

Nearly a decade ago, a New York Times story on the subject included this:  Suppose the unthinkable happened…Do not flee. Get inside any stable building and don’t come out till officials say it’s safe.”  That advice, the Times indicated, was “based on recent scientific analyses showing that a nuclear attack is much more survivable if you immediately shield yourself from the lethal radiation that follows a blast, a simple tactic seen as saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Even staying in a car, the studies show, would reduce casualties by more than 50 percent; hunkering down in a basement would be better by far.”

“We have to get past the mental block that says it’s too terrible to think about,” W. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the time, told the Times. “We have to be ready to deal with it” and help people learn how to “best protect themselves.”

Connecticut's state website focuses on nuclear preparedness related to an emergency at a nuclear power plant in the state.  The Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security site indicates "While the Dominion Energy- Millstone Station in Waterford is the main focus of emergency planning in Connecticut, the fuel storage site at the former Connecticut Yankee site in Haddam, CT and the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, New York, are also included in Connecticut's radiological emergency preparedness and response program."

Communities near those sites are linked, and a calendar of upcoming training is provided.  The United Way also provides information related to evacuation and taking shelter on the agency's website. New Haven conducted an exercise of their host community reception center to prepare for the unlikely event of a nuclear release at the Millstone power plant in 2015; video here:  https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/videos/109671

(New York magazine illustration)

 

 

New Leadership for New Haven Area Manufacturers

If the pendulum for Connecticut manufacturing is swinging in the right direction, women may be a good part of the reason why.  That dynamic was in evidence last week as the New Haven Manufacturers Association, the state’s largest manufacturers association, elected its officers for the coming year. Katherine Houlihan was elected as president.  She is a partner in Insurance Provider Group, a Wethersfield insurance brokerage serving clients in manufacturing and other industries, serving as Chief Talent Officer.

Elected as vice president was Jill Mayer, CEO of Bead Industries in Milford.  Bead Industries is comprised of two divisions: Bead Chain and Bead Electronics, and a wholly-owned subsidiary, McGuire Mfg. Company.

Overall in Connecticut, the manufacturing sector includes 4,500 businesses that employ 156,000 workers.  Each year, manufacturers export more than $15 billion, representing 96 percent of the state’s exports.  Manufacturing generates 11 percent of the state’s gross state product.

The election is yet another milestone for Mayer in just the past six months.  The great granddaughter of Bead Industries, Inc. founder, W. Calvin Bryant, she was promoted to CEO of the family-owned company at the start of this year. In addition to her duties as CEO and as an officer on the NHMA Board, she is a board member of the University of New Haven’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program.

“To be the first female CEO at Bead after more than a century of continuous operation isn’t lost on me,” she said in a statement in January.  Previously serving as Comptroller and Corporate President, Mayer is responsible as CEO for overseeing and supporting both divisions’ executive management teams as well as leading the company into the future through customer-focused growth and innovation.

At that time, the company also announced that Kristen Sawyer was being promoted to Chief financial Officer after serving as Corporate Controller for the past two years at Bead.  Prior to that, Sawyer served as Audit Manager for nearly 8 years at CohnReznick, where she served a variety of both public and private companies, primarily in the manufacturing sector.

In May, the company launched a new website as part of an overall re-branding initiative. Its responsive design makes it compatible with all digital devices, such as tablets and mobile phones.  The new website is part of the company’s reinvigorated look and strategy. 

“Our goal was to create a fresh, online experience with easy access to information, and I think we’ve accomplished that,” said Mayer. “It gives a nice overview of our product divisions, governance and long, family history that we hope will encourage people to engage with us.”

Founded in 1914, Bead started out developing and manufacturing Bead Chain® for electric light pulls. Using the same innovative metal-working process, it began fabricating products for the electronics market in the mid-1920s.

Bead, with 300 employees, celebrates its 104th year in continuous operation this spring. Bead Chain® is used on vertical blinds, securing marine parts, key chains and many other products. Bead Electronics, a division of Bead Industries, manufactures end to end, solid wire, and tubular contact pins for the telecom, automotive, connector, and lighting industries. McGuire Manufacturing Co., based in Cheshire, is a producer of high end, commercial grade plumbing fixture trim.

Also elected to the NHMA Board this month with Houlihan and Mayer were: second vice president, Roy Jaoude, planning manager for Radiall USA Inc., in New Haven; treasurer, John Ermer, principal in New Haven/Fairfield accounting firm Beers, Hamerman, Cohen & Burger PC; and secretary, Marcy Minnick, chief operations officer, Excello Tool Engineering & Manufacturing Co. in Milford.

The New Haven Manufacturers Association membership includes manufacturing and non-manufacturing companies, including firms in fields such as electronics, pharmaceuticals, instrumentation, information systems, consulting, metalworking, gas and electric utilities, banking, insurance, education and more.  Current members employ over 12,000 people.

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The Worst Is Yet to Come: More Hurricanes Headed Our Way

Expect more hurricanes in Connecticut, New England and the New York metropolitan area. That’s the take-away from an article published by the scientific website Massive by a fourth-year PhD student at Oregon State University researching microbial ecology.  Michael Graw draws on a new study, led by climate scientists Andra Garner from Rutgers University’s Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences and David Pollard from Penn State’s Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, that found that “climate change might be having an additional, unexpected effect on hurricanes: they’re moving north, bound increasingly often for northern New England rather than the mid-Atlantic states.”

The article points out that “the connection between climate change and hurricanes has become hard for anyone to ignore.”

The research by Garner and Pollard, Graw points out, indicates that only eight hurricanes in the last century have made landfall on the New England coast.  That is in the process of changing.  He recalls that “Sandy infamously ravaged the Connecticut coastline and caused $360 million in damages,” adding that “with the effects of potential future storms amplified by sea level rise and even higher wind speeds, that destruction could increase sharply from the next major storm.”

Commenting on the article, Anna Robuck, a Ph.D. student at the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, points out that “New England climate is noticeably in flux; the Northeast U.S. has experienced a 70 percent increase in heavy precipitation events between 1958 and 2010.”  She warns that “public awareness regarding risks associated with extreme weather and climate change has yet to fully embrace the implications climatic shifts holds for the region."

Graw also points out that a research team led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “looked at tropical storm tracks around the globe for the past 30 years, finding that tropical storms have slowly been shifting poleward in their respective hemispheres.”  He concludes that “this suggests that climate change is disrupting the balance of atmospheric pressure between land and ocean.”

The result of the shifts?  Increasing likelihood of New England-bound hurricanes.

A handful of hurricanes in the region are in the history books, but also still linger in many memories.  The Great Hurricane of 1938 is renowned for the damage it caused, and is often considered the worst hurricane in New England history.  Other notable hurricanes occurred in 1954, 1955, 1985, 1991, 2011 - and 2012.  That year’s Superstorm Sandy was the second-costliest hurricane in United States history, with New York, New Jersey and Connecticut absorbing the worst of the storm.

Two weeks ago, Governor Dannel P. Malloy and officials from across state government  highlighted the progress made over the last several years to strengthen resiliency and harden infrastructure from future potential storms, as severe weather has continued to severely impact our nation.  On the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, officials said that while the state has "made significant progress on these fronts, more needs to be done to combat the impact of climate change, which has resulted in an increase in the frequency and power of storms."

Six state agencies - Housing, Economic Development, Labor, Transportation, Energy and Environmental Protection, and Emergency Services and Public Protection have each taken steps to initiative or strengthen preparedness and responsiveness in the event of another major storm.

"As the state continues to rebuild, we are doing so with the understanding that another storm of this magnitude could hit Connecticut again. Which is why we continue upgrading our infrastructure as well as rehabilitating and building homes that are more resilient to this type of storm," said state Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein.  Added state Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker:  “Hardening Connecticut’s infrastructure – particularly our rail infrastructure which serves tens of thousands of people every day – has been a priority at the DOT for years now."

Gov. Malloy emphasized that the state has "taken a number of steps that are strengthening our resilience against future storms, including creating the nation’s first microgrid program, investing millions to hardening infrastructure along our shoreline to protect from flooding, designating thousands of acres of forest along our shoreline as open space that serve as a coastal buffer against storm waters, and we’ve made significant investments to protect housing in flood-prone areas.”

 

 

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Former CT Sportscaster Handling Weather Reporting Duties During Hurricane in Houston

Khambrel Marshall, who once delivered the evening sports news on Hartford’s Channel 3, has accomplished the rare broadcast trifecta – he has been a sports anchor, news anchor, and weather reporter during his career – all in some of the nation’s largest media markets.  It is a career with heightened visibility in recent days, as a Hurricane Harvey barrelled in on Houston, where Marshall is an on-air member of the NBC affiliate’s “Severe Weather” team, as well as the host of a weekly public affairs program on KPRC-TV. Joining the WFSB sports team in 1980 at age 27, Marshall spend five years at channel 3, moving from the nation’s number 23 TV market to number 13 when he relocated to Miami in 1985.  At the time, he became the first black sports anchor in South Florida, according to published reports.  He had received his broadcasting degree from Arizona State University while working in his first job in television as weekend sports anchor in Phoenix, prior to arriving in Hartford. He remained in sports until news captured his attention while he was sports director in Miami and was called upon to anchor during Hurricane Andrew.

In a 1980 interview published in Hartford Sports Extra, Marshall said “I’m an honest person.  And I have a great rapport with people.”  That has been evident at each stop in his career, because, Marshall explained three decades ago, “I like to rub elbows. I really like to meet the folks.”  He was one of 12 recipients to receive the National Community Service Award from the Westinghouse Corporation and was named "Outstanding Young Floridian" by the Fort Lauderdale Jaycees for his humanitarian efforts in the wake of Hurricane Andrew.

Marshall later joined KPRC in Houston in 1999 as a news anchor after 13 years in Miami.  He left the air in 2006 to accept a producer's position.  He then returned as a member of the station’s "Severe Weather Team."  He also airs a weekly public affairs program, Houston Newsmakers, that airs on Sunday mornings, just after Meet the Press.   He is approaching his 2oth anniversary at the Texas station, just a couple of years away.

A self-proclaimed "weather geek" since high school, he earned his Broadcast Meteorology Certification from Mississippi State University – after his broadcasting career was already underway.  Living through and reporting on Hurricane Andrew solidified his thirst for meteorological knowledge, specifically tropical weather phenomena.   It is an interest, and experience, that has been on display over the weekend in Houston.

Among his numerous honors is one of broadcasting's top awards, the Emmy, for a feature series titled "Guardians at Sea," chronicling the efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard to rescue Cuban and Haitian refugees crossing the Florida Straits.

He almost came to Hartford two years earlier, after the president of Post Newsweek, then the owner of WFSB, saw him on the air in Phoenix.  The station’s news director got in touch.

“He said the president of Post Newsweek stations saw in Phoenix for a convention or something, saw me on the air, and would like me for the Hartford station.”  Marshall recalled that although he liked Hartford, he decided to stay in Phoenix.  Two years later, after a brief stint in Detroit, Marshall and Hartford connected as he became the sportscaster on the 11 PM newscast, joining a team led by veteran sportscaster Dave Smith.

Marshall has made his mark supporting local nonprofit organizations in addition to his on-air work.  He supports Big Brothers Big Sisters, and was March of Dimes Texas Communications volunteer of the year twice.  He is a past Chairman of the Executive Committee of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Texas, and recent board member of Collaborative for Children.  In addition, he is a Senior Fellow in the "American Leadership Forum: Houston/Gulf Coast Chapter." The intense ALF one-year program is designed to join and strengthen diverse leaders in the community to better serve the public good.  Marshall was married in 1979 – just months before landing at WFSB in Hartford - to his wife Debbie, and they have two daughters.

 

North Stonington Entrepreneur Is CT's Small Business Person of the Year

Carla Bartolucci, President & CEO of Euro-USA Trading/Jovial Foods of North Stonington, has been named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2017 Connecticut Small Business Person of the Year, SBA’s top annual award. According to the company’s website, Jovial Foods, Inc. was founded by a husband and wife team who have always been passionate about food, farming and traditions. Carla and Rodolfo met in the 1980’s in Bologna, where she was spending a year abroad studying Italian and he was studying agriculture. Both were born into family of talented home cooks, he in Italy and she in New England, and food was at the center of their childhoods.

She began her work in the organic food industry by creating the bionaturae brand of organic foods from Italy in 1996, after losing both of her parents to cancer by her mid-twenties, her website biography says.

“As soon as I set foot into an organic food store, I knew I wanted to get involved in organic farming and food manufacturing,” Carla Bartolucci explains. “After losing my parents, I couldn’t help but feel compassion for anyone suffering from disease or hardship, and creating good food, true and pure, was my way of caring for others.”

“We are extremely excited to honor a truly amazing line up of small business owners and champions this year, said Anne Hunt, SBA’s Connecticut District Director.  It is important to recognize these outstanding small businesses in the state as they are the job creators, innovators and the fabric of our local communities!”  “We hope the small business community will join the SBA and our host, SCORE for an inspiring awards luncheon on May 2nd in New Haven, CT.”

2017 Connecticut SBA Honorees:

  • Woman-Owned Small Business - Elizabeth Florian, Grassroots Ice Cream
  • Family-Owned Small Business - Beverlee Dacey, Amodex Products Inc.
  • CT Microenterprise Award - Katalina Riegelmann, Katalina’s Bakery
  • Minority-Owned Small Business - Miguel Tomassio, Taco Loco
  • Young Entrepreneur Small Business of the Year - Ashley Stone, Beauty Entourage
  • Financial Services Champion - Kim Rodney, Connecticut Community Bank
  • Entrepreneurial Success - Flavia Naslausky & Camilla Gazal, Zaniac Greenwich
  • Exporter of the Year - Monica Goldstein, Recovery Planner
  • Home-Based Business of the Year - Mary Goehring, Transcription Plus

The slate of leading small businesses owners in Connecticut will be honored at the Annual Small Business Week Awards Luncheon at Gateway Community College in New Haven on May 2.

“Your hard work, innovative ideas, and dedication to your employees and community have helped you build an outstanding business that has strengthened your state’s economy. The SBA is pleased to celebrate your achievements and recognize your personal role in driving our nation’s economic growth,” said Linda McMahon, administrator of the Small Business Association and a longtime Connecticut resident. The 2017 National Small Business Person of the Year will be announced at the ceremonies, along with three runner-ups.

Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.  This year, the dates are April 30 - May 7, 2017, with national events planned in Washington, D.C., New York City, Indianapolis, Dallas, and Fresno, California.

For more information and a complete list of Small Business Week events during the week of April 30 - May 7, 2017, visit www.sba.gov/ct.

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Get Ready for April Showers – and More, UConn Researcher Says

A University of Connecticut climate scientist confirms that more intense and more frequent severe rainstorms will likely continue as temperatures rise due to global warming, despite some observations that seem to suggest otherwise. In a research paper appearing this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, UConn civil and environmental engineering professor Guiling Wang explains that data showing the intensity of severe rainstorms declining after temperatures reach a certain threshold are merely a reflection of climate variability. It is not proof that there is a fixed upper temperature limit for future increases in severe rains, after which they would begin to drop off.

"We hope this information puts things in better perspective and clarifies the confusion around this issue," Wang told UConn Today.  "We also hope this will lead to a more accurate way of analyzing and describing climate change," said Wang, who led an international team of climate experts in conducting the study, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences.

Climate scientists and policymakers closely monitor severe and prolonged rainstorms as they can have a devastating impact on local environments and economies. These damaging storms can cause catastrophic flooding; overwhelm sewage treatment plants; increase the risk of waterborne disease; and wipe out valuable crops.

Wang says the peaks seen in the observational data and climate models simply reflect the natural variability of the climate. As Earth warms, her team found, the entire curve representing the relationship between extreme precipitation and rising temperatures is moving to the right. This is because the threshold temperature at which rain intensity peaks also goes up as temperature rises. Therefore, extreme rainfall will continue to increase, she says.

"In general, extreme precipitation increases with higher temperatures because the air can hold more moisture -- although that depends on moisture availability. But beyond a certain point, it is the other way round: the temperature responds to the precipitation, or more strictly speaking, the conditions leading to the precipitation, [such as extensive cloud cover or surface moisture],” explained Kevin Trenberth, an expert on global warming and the lead author of several reports prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who joined Wang in the study.

Trenberth is currently a Distinguished Senior Scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore as a member of the IPCC.

“The most obvious example of this is in a drought where there is no precipitation. Another example is in cloudy, stormy conditions, when it is wet and cool. By relating the changes in precipitation to the temperature where the relationship reverses -- instead of the mean temperature as in previous studies -- we can make sense of the differences and the changes. Moreover, it means there is no limit to the changes that can occur, as otherwise might be suspected if there were a fixed relationship."

All of which adds up to a soggy future, as climate change continues.

The mission of Dr. Guiling Wang's Hydroclimatology and Biosphere-Atmosphere Interactions Lab at UConn is to understand and quantify the terrestrial hydrological cycle, its variability, changes, and interactions with the society. With a special focus on water, the lab’s research spans the disciplines of climate and atmospheric sciences, hydrology, and plant ecology. They take “an earth system approach, viewing the Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere as dynamically coupled components linked through water, energy, and CO2 exchanges,” according to the website summary.

67,000 CT Homes At Risk from Hurricane Storm Surges; State Ranks 14th Among States Under Threat

More than 6.8 million homes on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are at potential risk of damage from hurricane storm surge inundation with a total reconstruction cost value of more than $1.5 trillion, according to a new analysis by CoreLogic.  Connecticut, which has felt the brunt of major east coast storms in recent years, ranks 14th among the states in the potential damage from future storms, with more than 67,000 homes at risk of flood exposure. According to the analysis, nearly 7,000 Connecticut homes are at extreme risk from future storms, another 21,600 homes are at very high risk, and nearly 18,000 are at high risk, depending upon the severity of the storm.  In addition, just over 21,000 homes are seen as being of moderate risk.  In the analysis, a category 1-5 storm would place a structure at extreme risk, a category 2-5 storm at very high risk, a category 3-5 storm at high risk, and a category 4-5 storm would put a home at moderate risk.

tableAmong neighboring states, Connecticut ranked behind Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.

In addition to the number of homes at risk, the analysis also provides the reconstruction cost value (RCV), which is the cost to completely rebuild a property in case of damage, including labor and materials by geographic location, assuming a worst-case scenario at 100-percent destruction.  The analysis points out that the location of hurricanes that hit land is often a more important factor than the number of storms that may occur during the year.hurricane-irene-damage-ct-nat-guard-east-haven

At the state level, Texas and Florida, which have the longest coastal areas, consistently have more homes at risk than other states. Florida ranks first with 2.7 million at-risk homes across the five risk categories and Texas ranks third with 531,169 at-risk homes.  Since the number of homes at risk strongly correlates with the accompanying RCV, these two states rank first and fifth, respectively for having the largest RCV, according to the analysis.

The states with the most at-risk homes are Florida, Louisiana, Texas, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware.

Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire ranked 17th, 18th and 19th respectively.

The CoreLogic storm surge analysis, officials say, complements Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood zone information to provide a snapshot of potential damage exposure at the property level since many properties located outside designated FEMA flood zones are still at risk for storm surge damage.  The analysis examines risk from hurricane-driven storm surge for homes along the Atlantic and Gulf coastlines across 19 states and the District of Columbia, as well as for 88 metro areas.states

“Using more granular-level data has given us an even clearer picture of which homes are at risk of storm surge damage,” said Dr. Tom Jeffery, senior hazard risk scientist for CoreLogic. “Despite the overall increases in risk, we were glad to see that the number and value of homes in the most extreme, and dangerous, category actually declined.”

At the regional level, the Atlantic Coast has just under 3.9 million homes at risk of storm surge with an RCV of $953 billion, and the Gulf Coast has just over 2.9 million homes at risk with $592 billion in potential exposure to total destruction damage.roadwater

When the states are ranked by the anticipated reconstruction cost value of the homes at risk, Connecticut ranks 12th.

Among the nation’s major metropolitan areas, those with the most homes potentially affected by all categories of hurricane are Miami, New York Tampa, New Orleans, Virginia beach, Cape Coral, Houston, Bradenton, Naples, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Charleston, Boston, Myrtle Beach and Lafayette.

CoreLogic is a leading global property information, analytics and data-enabled services provider. The company’s combined data from public, contributory and proprietary sources includes over 4.5 billion records spanning more than 50 years.corelogic report

The official hurricane season extends from June-November each year, but hurricanes are not limited to that timeframe.  The report indicates that most preseason forecasts to date have predicted an increase in both the total number of storms and the number of hurricanes in 2016, compared with the last three years. The storm predictions from Tropical Storm Risk, for example, show a 35 percent chance of this year being an above average season.

Insurance Department Recovers $6 Million for Policyholders, Taxpayers in 2015; Recoveries, Fines Both At 4-Year Low

The Connecticut Insurance Department recovered approximately $6 million for policyholders and taxpayers in 2015, helping individuals and families with their claims and complaints.  The total dollar amount of the recoveries declined for the third consecutive year, down from a high of $8.7 million in 2012, $7.4 million in 2013 and $6.3 million in 2014. Officials indicated that the Department’s Consumer Affairs Unit (CAU) fielded more than 6,100 complaints and inquiries and helped policyholders recoup more than $4 million from January 1 to December 31, 2015.  The number of complaints and inquiries dropped slightly from the previous year, when 6,500 were handled, recouping $4.3 million for policy owners.  In 2013, policyholders saw $4.7 million returned.  In 2012, the numbers were virtually identical to 2015.ctInsuranceDept

“Behind these statistics are the individuals and families the Department was able to help through our intervention,” Commissioner Katharine L. Wade said. “In many cases we were able to make a real difference in their lives and I encourage anyone with questions or concerns about their insurance to contact the Department. We are here to help consumers.”

The department, in announcing the annual totals for 2015, also highlighted some individual recoveries, including:

  • $27,000 for home health care services for a senior citizen under her long-term care policy
  • $13,000 to pay for speech therapy for an autistic child
  • $16,000 paid to a policyholder for an inpatient stay at a skilled nursing facilityrecoveries
  • $37,000 in an additional payment to a homeowner to settle a claim

“Our staff makes certain that companies and agents comply with all state insurance laws and regulation and have extensive knowledge to answer a wide range of insurance questions,” the Commissioner said.

In addition to recoveries for policyholders, the Department’s Market Conduct division levied approximately $1.7 million in fines against carriers and returned that money to the state General Fund in 2015. The fines resulted from a variety of violations and settlements ranging from untimely claim payments to improper licensing. That was the lowest total for fines in recent years, perhaps signifying greater compliance.  In 2014, fines totaled $2.03 million, in 2013 the total was $2.7 million and in 2012 fines levied totaled $4.6 million.

The majority of the funds recovered for policyholders stemmed from complaints over health, accident, homeowners and life and annuities policies.

The following is the breakdown of funds recovered in 2015:

  • Accident, Health - $2.7 million, compared with $2.5 million in 2014
  • Auto - $430,000, compared with $381,000 in 2014
  • General Liability - $17,200, compared with $65,000 in 2014
  • Homeowners - $530,000, compared with $65,000 in 2014
  • Life, Annuities - $294,000, compared with $330,000 in 2014

Recoveries in 2013 were largely focused on homeowners, as a result of Superstorm Sandy-related claims. Department recoveries in 2012 reflect the impact of claims from 2011 Storm Irene and the late October snow-filled Nor’easter that landed in Connecticut.

The Department calculates its consumer recoveries based on what the policyholder received as a result of the Department’s intervention. The inquiries and complaints also help the Department identify industry trends that may adversely affect consumers and trigger investigation by the Market Conduct division, officials said.

In addition, complaint data also help determine topics for consumer education and serve as tools to help the Department monitor the industry.  The Market Conduct enforcement actions are posted on the Department’s web site at www.ct.gov/cid