Virginia Climate Center

VA - New center to help Virginia prepare for climate change

As the effects of a warming climate continue to impact Virginians, a new center at George Mason University is coming together to help individual towns, cities, and counties across Virginia better prepare for what is ahead.

The Virginia Climate Center is expected to launch in late January. Led by James Kinter, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Earth Sciences at GMU, the VCC will work with local communities across the state, listening to what they need and providing information to help them develop strategies to manage their risks from a warming climate.

Kinter is excited about what VCC can do for the people of Virginia, “It’s entirely a community-oriented organization. Almost an extension service like many states have for agriculture. It’s modeled in very much the same way: combining research that is going on inside the university with real-life problems going on outside of the university.”

The VCC team was awarded a 2-year, $2 million grant from NOAA to develop the pilot project. Initially, it will be focused on helping the communities in the northern part of the state, providing data to localities to make better decisions about public health, infrastructure, transportation, agriculture, and natural resources.

But it does not mean southern and western Virginia are excluded. Asked if locations such as Dinwiddie or Halifax counties came to them for ideas about adaptation, Kinter says they are ready.

“Absolutely. Each local community has to figure out how to deal with that on its own. The problem we’re trying to solve is to help each of those smaller communities understand their risks and develop resilience strategies to address those risks.”

Kinter identified five key threats to Virginia.

Rising sea levels are already leading to an increase in coastal flooding along the state’s tidal rivers, inland bays, oceanfront locations, and at its key coastal military installations.

Heat waves and the urban heat island effect are increasing risks to public health, especially in historically underserved communities where there is a lack of green space to temper the heat.

Warming winters allow larger populations of mosquitoes and ticks to survive into the following spring, increasing transmission risks of West Nile and Lyme diseases.

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