Department of Earth, Environmental & Planetary Sciences
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Rhode Island Superior Court Associate Justice Brian Stern has issued a temporary restraining order after a fire at Rhode Island Recycled Metals LLC. The fire released smoke and potentially harmful chemicals detected throughout the city and into Pawtucket by Breathe Providence sensors, according to expert testimony from Meredith Hastings, DEEPS Chair and project lead for Breathe Providence.
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New research shows that, rather than an opening of the passage, the safe shipping season declined along several “choke points” through the Canadian Arctic, especially on the northern route. The finding matches expectations that ice will survive longest in the Canadian Arctic, noted DEEPS Professor Amanda Lynch, who was not involved with the study.
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News from DEEPS

Student Research Stories: Gabriel Traietti

Gabriel Traietti ‘25, concentrating in Geochemistry, investigates the terrestrial paleoclimate of the Congo River Basin in Senior Associate Dean James Russell’s lab. He emphasizes how DEEPS gave him the tools to explore his passion for reconstructing ancient climate to help anticipate the effects of climate change on a local level.
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Climate Change AI has announced the grantees for the 2023 Innovation Grants program, including "EMPIRIC_AI: AI-enabled ensemble projections of cyclone risk for health infrastructure in Pacific Island Countries and Territories" lead by Visiting Assistant Professor (Research) Chris Horvat. The EMPIRIC_AI project aims to develop higher resolution climate models and targeted cyclone risk projections to support health resilience for frontline communities.
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Brown University leaders Ashish K. Jha and Kim Cobb discuss the intersection of climate change and people’s health, the challenges of our information ecosystem, and how the University’s collaborative efforts are fostering innovative solutions and preparing future leaders.
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Brown University Graduate School

Research Matters with Peter Van Katwyk

Research Matters, hosted by the Graduate School, is an annual live event featuring short talks by Brown graduate students on why their research matters. DEEPS graduate student Peter Van Katwyk presented on his research, "Improving Sea Level Projections with AI."
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For their AP environmental science and biology field trip, Barrington High School students visited the Blackstone River to learn about Rhode Island's history of pollution. The trip was supported by the RI NASA Space Grant. “We want to get students outside the classroom beyond the textbooks and internet articles they read about,” said Ralph Milliken, Program Director and DEEPS Associate Professor. “So they can understand the interplay on human society and the natural environment.”
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Weeks after a massive fire at a metal recycling business on Allens Avenue in Providence sparked environmental concerns, the NBC 10 I-Team discovered dozens of complaints made against businesses on that same street. Professor Meredith Hastings spoke with investigators about Breathe Providence and her ongoing research on local air quality. “Our project is really dedicated to try and understand patterns of air pollution across the city,” Hastings said.
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PhD candidate Jared M. Kodero recently published a new article in Communications Earth & Environment, titled “Future transition from forests to shrublands and grasslands in the western United States is expected to reduce carbon storage.” The article examines the anticipated impact of climate change on vegetation in the western United States, particularly the shifts in dominant Plant Functional Types and carbon storage.
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Institute at Brown for Environment and Society

What happens after we reach net-zero emissions?

Co-authored by 21 international climate experts, including IBES Fellow and DEEPS Professor Baylor Fox-Kemper, a new article in Frontiers in Science offers the first comprehensive analysis of the diverse factors controlling global temperatures and provides a framework for improving warming predictions.
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DEEPS PhD students Brianna Hoegler and Jared Nirenberg, with the support of hundreds of fellow scientists, have written a letter to the National Science Foundation expressing their concerns regarding the future of scientific ocean drilling research. The letter is published in AGU Perspectives, and garnered signatures from nearly three hundred scientists, a majority being early career scientists.
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Impact: Research at Brown

Navigating a New Arctic

“There’s no scenario in which melting ice in the Arctic is good news,” said DEEPS Professor Amanda Lynch, the lead author on a 2022 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “But the unfortunate reality is that the ice is already retreating, these routes are opening up, and we need to start thinking critically about the legal, environmental, and geopolitical implications.”
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The Community Noise Lab and Swearer Center at Brown University organized a forum titled, "Firing Back" held on November 13 at the School of Public Health. At the event, Juliet Fang, a second-year undergraduate student at Brown studying Public Health and Geology-Biology, shared data indicating that the noise levels from the firing range were higher than what the city of Cranston legally allows. Her study underscored the link between noise pollution and various health issues, including disrupted sleep, heightened stress, and cognitive impairments, as well as chronic conditions like hypertension and heart disease.
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DEEPS Professor and IBES Director Kim Cobb offered commentary to TIME on the Fifth National Climate Assessment, noting, "at the center of the report are people ... who have escalating risks associated with climate change as well as clear opportunities for win-win climate action."
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The last 12 months were the hottest Earth has ever recorded, according to a new report by Climate Central, a nonprofit science research group. IBES Director and DEEPS Professor Kim Cobb commented that the heat of the last year, intense as it was, is tempered because the oceans have been absorbing the majority of the excess heat related to climate change, but they are reaching their limit. “Oceans are really the thermostat of our planet ... they are tied to our economy, food sources, and coastal infrastructure.”
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The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Justice has released a new environmental justice policy to prioritize racial and socioeconomic fairness in its agency practices. Professor Meredith Hastings commented, saying she listened to input from community members when deciding where exactly to put the air monitors for her research. “More needs to be done to better understand what residents are exposed to, what sources/industries are responsible and our regulatory system needs to move beyond simply expecting industry to comply by making it harder for these businesses to cause harm in the first place,” Hastings wrote to The Public's Radio.
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Researchers used temperature and humidity data along with climate models to analyze humanity’s exposure to potentially lethal heat as the world warms. IBES Director and DEEPS Professor Kim Cobb said the study’s conclusions are “compelling” but not surprising. “Extreme heat is already responsible for countless deaths worldwide every year,” Cobb told CNN.
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The Wall Street Journal

China Is Gaining Long-Coveted Role in Arctic, as Russia Yields

In response to economic isolation due to the Ukraine invasion, Russia is seeking help from China to develop shipping routes through the Arctic. Professor Amanda Lynch shared her perspective with The Wall Street Journal, including concerns about traversing the icy passages with limited emergency support options.
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Rice University

DOE backs Rice study of how soils store carbon

A new 3-year grant from the Department of Energy will investigate carbon storage in soil. The project is led by Rice University scientists, Assistant Professor Mark Torres and Postdoctoral Fellow Evan Ramos. DEEPS Assistant Professor Daniel Ibarra is one of the grant's co-investigators.
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DEEPS Professor Baylor Fox-Kemper and EEOB Professor Stephen Porder have co-authored a piece in TIME about the Earth's rising temperatures. "As earth system scientists, we've learned it's sometimes more helpful to look at Earth as, well, a system. In this case, the system of the air and the oceans. Understanding how they interact is the key to understanding what is, and what isn’t, unusual about this very hot year."
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Providence’s sewer systems are not prepared for the amount of rain falling on the city this year, according to Mayor Brett Smiley. And all that extra water is wreaking havoc and endangering lives. Professor Baylor Fox-Kemper commented saying it’s good that the city is taking action on upgrading its sewer infrastructure, given that we can only expect more rainfall and flooding as the climate continues to warm.
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News from DEEPS

Kim Cobb and Alberto Saal elected as AGU Fellows

Professors Kim Cobb and Alberto Saal have been elected as American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) Fellows. They join 53 other individuals in the 2023 Class of Fellows. AGU, the world's largest Earth and space sciences association, annually recognizes a select number of individuals for its highest honors. Since 1962, the AGU Union Fellows Committee has selected less than 0.1% of members as new Fellows.
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Professor Meredith Hastings discussed Providence air quality and the Breathe Providence project with the Providence Journal. Breathe Providence has set out to address what its researchers see as a gap in air quality data by investing in a network of measuring instruments that they hope will yield more detailed information that reflects a person’s actual exposure to ozone and other pollutants.
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Institute at Brown for Environment and Society

IBES Appoints Three Faculty Members to New Leadership Team

Three members of IBES faculty will join Director Kim Cobb and Director of Undergraduate Studies Dawn King to form an expanded IBES Leadership Team, as outlined in the Institute’s 2023-2028 Strategic Plan. Dan Ibarra, Assistant Professor in IBES and DEEPS, has been appointed Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. He sees his new role as having two aspects: promoting inclusivity within IBES and working to diversify environmental science as a whole.
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“The oceans do a lot of the work in reducing the level of warming,” DEEPS Professor Baylor Fox-Kemper told CNBC. “Over 90 percent of the excess energy on earth due to climate change is found in warmer oceans, some of it in surface oceans and some at depth.”
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A new technique for measuring past topography shows the Himalayas were more than halfway to their summit before a continental collision made them the highest range in the world. “Experts have long thought that it takes a massive tectonic collision, on the order of continent-to-continent scale, to produce the sort of uplift required to produce Himalaya-scale elevations,” said DEEPS Assistant Professor Daniel Ibarra. “This study disproves that and sends the field in some interesting new directions.”
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Assistant Professor Mara Freilich and graduate student Élise Beaudin embarked on the Submesoscale-Mesoscale Ocean Dynamics Experiment (S-MODE) mission this past April to study the role of surface layer submesoscale eddies on climate and biological elements in the upper ocean.
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$1.5 million worth of repairs for hurricane barriers in Fox Point will start in July, Providence Mayor Brett Smiley announced on the wettest July 10 on record in the last century. Rain, and with it flooding, are only expected to increase in Providence in the future, according to Professor Baylor Fox-Kemper.
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In addition to the grueling heat of the past few weeks, wildfire smoke, the early arrival of El Niño, and shrinking Antarctic sea ice are also indicators of a global environmental crisis. "Heat sets the pace of our climate in so many ways," IBES Director and DEEPS Professor Kim Cobb commented for the Associated Press. "It’s never just the heat."
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Kim Cobb, DEEPS Professor and Director of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, said the week’s events embodied the “multiple stressors linked to man-made climate change” that the United Nations has warned about through its scientific panel on global warming.
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For the past two years, paleoclimatologist Natasha Sekhon has enriched IBES & DEEPS with her collaborative work. In a recent IBES article, Natasha discussed the connections she's made by teaching at Brown & conducting cave research in the Philippines.
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The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recently released its latest findings on the human and economic impact of weather-related disasters during the quadrennial World Meteorological Congress in Geneva. The congress is centered around the implementation of the UN's Early Warnings for All initiative. Professor Amanda Lynch, as the Chair of the WMO Research Board, plays a vital role in guiding the objectives and execution of this significant initiative.
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Research at Brown

Baylor Fox-Kemper receives 2023 Seed Award

Baylor Fox-Kemper, alongside Katelyn Moretti, Charles Lawrence, and John Nicklas, has received a 2023 Seed Award for his project, "Bayesian Modeling of Climate-Dependent Mortality Risk among US Residents from 1989 to 2020." This project builds toward a complete, transparent estimation of mortality from the latest generation of climate model projections to 2100.
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