Climate Change

Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, and water vapor, absorb radiation in the atmosphere. This trapping and build-up of heat naturally warms the Earth’s surface; without this greenhouse effect, the Earth would be inhabitable for most forms of life. However, scientists are attributing the record rate of warming of the twentieth century and present day to a human activity-enhanced greenhouse effect. As humans create and release more man-made greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the natural greenhouse effect is amplified, trapping more heat than is released into space and causing more warming of the Earth’s surface. 

This phenomenon of global warming, now commonly referred to as climate change, as well as its effects, have been and are being studied by scientists all over the world. The term climate change refers to fluctuations in the Earth’s climate over a long period of time. Climate is defined as the average of global or of a locale ’s weather patterns over an extended period of time. This is different from normal variations in weather, which can change on a regional scale, hour to hour, day to day, season to season. 

Current estimates geologically date the Earth to about 4.5 billion years, and it is important to note that the Earth’s climate has changed over time. In more recent history, the northern hemisphere experienced above average temperatures from the eleventh century through the fifteenth century, while the seventeenth through mid-nineteenth century experienced temperatures that were colder than normal. Climate can also vary on a short term basis due to volcanic eruptions or certain shifts in the Earth’s system, for example, El Niño, La Niña, or North Atlantic oscillation patterns.    

While historically not a highlight of mainstream debate, over the past decade the notion of climate change has gained attention and acceptance and now demands focus and adaptation at all levels: internationally, nationally, and locally. The formation of various consortiums, groups, and governmental agencies that have released reports, models, and scenarios demonstrating the occurrence of climate change over the past century and the impacts it will have on the Earth in the future has brought the discussion of climate change to the forefront.

The Delaware River Basin includes portions of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware that drain to the 330-mile long Delaware River and Bay. The basin’s total area is over 13,500 square miles, and over 15 million people rely on its water resources for potable, industrial, and agricultural use. The effects of climate change will impact the Delaware River Basin, and water resource managers must seriously look at how it will affect the watershed and how to best adapt. The main focal points, all of which are interwoven, include increased temperature, changes in precipitation patterns, and sea level rise. 

DRBC's executive director and other staff members are involved in committees, participated in panel discussions, given presentations, and have attended conferences on the subject of climate change. Additionally, the commission has and is currently exploring funding opportunities to investigate these important topics further. DRBC's State of the Basin Report (2008) includes a feature on climate change (in the hydrology section), which highlights the need for more localized studies, mapping, monitoring, and modeling, as well as for planning initiatives that integrate the reality of a changing climate.

Climate Change Links of Interest


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (formerly PEW Center on Global Climate Change)

United Nations Environment Programme

United Nations Gateway to Climate Change

World Meteorological Organization


Advisory Committee on Water Information's Water Resources Adaptation to Climate Change Workgroup

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - Global Climate Change

NASA's Global Change Master Directory

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA's Climate Program Office

Natural Resources Defense Council

Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)

United States (U.S.) Global Change Research Program

U.S. Department of Energy

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA)

U.S. EPA Office of Water

U.S. EPA: Climate Change Impacts and Adapting to Climate Change

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center

USGS Climate and Land Use Change

USGS Derived Downscaled Climate Projection Portal

USGS National Climate Change Viewer

USGS Report: "Climate Change and Water Resources Management - A Federal Perspective"**

U.S. Global Change Research Program - 3rd National Climate Assessment (May 2014) 

Water Environment Research Foundation

The White House Council on Environmental Quality: Climate Change Resilience

Regional and Local

Carol Collier, Executive Director, Delaware River Basin Commission: "Climate Change Impacts: Actions Needed to Protect the Water Resources of the Delaware River Basin" - presented at an Union of Concerned Scientists-sponsored event held at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge on January 13, 2010 (pdf 3.97 MB).

Clean Air Cool Planet

Common Waters Partnership/Pinchot Institute for Conservation: "Adapting to a Changing Climate: Risks and Opportunities for the Upper Delaware River Region" (pdf 13 MB)

Consortium for Atlantic Regional Assessment

Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC)

DNREC - Climate Change and Delaware

Dr. Anthony Broccoli, Rutgers University: "Future Changes in Climate, Sea Level, and Hydrology" - presented at the July 19, 2006 DRBC Meeting (pdf 7 MB). Click here for more information on Rutgers University's climate change research.

Dr. Michael Oppenheimer (Co-author), Princeton University (2005): "Future Sea Level Rise and the New Jersey Coast: Assessing Potential Impacts and Opportunities" (pdf 1 MB).

Graduate Students, University of Pennsylvania's School of Design (Fall 2008): Climate Change: Impacts and Responses in the Delaware River Basin. View also their powerpoint - "Climate Change: Impacts and Responses in the Delaware River Basin" - presented at the December 10, 2008 DRBC Meeting (60 MB). This project was made possible by grant funding from the William Penn Foundation.

New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection: Sustainability and Green Energy

New Jersey Global Warming


New York City's PlaNYC 2030

New York City Department of Environmental Protection's Climate Change Program

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Office of Climate Change

NYSDEC Energy and Climate - Climate Change

Office of the Delaware State Climatologist

Office of the New Jersey State Climatologist

Office of the New York State Climatologist

Office of the Pennsylvania State Climatologist

Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE) - Climate Change

PDE Report (2010): "Climate Change and the Delaware Estuary" (pdf 7.3 MB)

Penn Future: Climate Change

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Climate Change Advisory Committee

Pennsylvania Environmental Council - Climate Change Roadmap for Pennsylvania

UCS Global Warming Regional Information - Northeastern States

U.S. EPA: Climate Impacts in the Northeast

U.S. EPA: Northeast Climate Change and Water 

U.S. EPA Report (2009): "Coastal Sensitivity to Sea Level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region" (pdf 7.2 MB)

U.S. EPA/DRBC Joint Report (1986): "Greenhouse Effect, Sea Level Rise, and Salinity in the Delaware Estuary"

USGS Report (1994): "Sensitivity of Water Resources of the Delaware River Basin to Climate Variability and Change"