Consortium on Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN)

CCRUN Annual Report 2018
(Period of Performance: 6/1/17 - 5/31/18)

CCRUN Briefing Sheet (2017)

Principal Investigators
Radley Horton
Franco Montalto
William Solecki

Program Manager
Daniel Bader

Robert Chen 
Patrick Kinney 
Yochanan Kushnir
Malgosia Madajewicz 
Richard Palmer 
Philip Orton

Affiliated Institutions 
Boston University
City College of New York - Hunter College
Columbia University
Cornell University
Drexel University
Stevens Institute of Technology
University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Dates Funded 

CCRUN Website

Mission & Vision

The Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN) serves stakeholder needs in assessing and managing risks from climate variability and change. It is currently also the only RISA team with a principal focus on climate change adaptation in urban settings. As such, CCRUN is designed to address the complex challenges that are associated with densely populated, highly interconnected urban areas, such as urban heat island effects; poor air quality; intense coastal development, and multifunctional settlement along inland waterways; complex overlapping institutional jurisdictions; integrated infrastructure systems; and highly diverse, and in some cases, fragile socio-economic communities.


CCRUN's projects are focused in three broad sectors: Water, Coasts, and Health. Research in each of these sectors is linked through the cross-cutting themes of climate change and community vulnerability, the latter of which is especially important in considerations of environmental justice and equity. CCRUN's stakeholder-driven approach to research can therefore support investigations of the impacts of a changing climate, population growth, and urban and economic policies on the social, racial, and ethnic dimensions of livelihoods and of communities in the urban Northeast. Disadvantaged socio-economic groups have been particularly underserved in the area of climate change, and one of CCRUN's long-term goals is the building of adaptive capacity among such groups to current and future climate extremes.

Select Projects

Evaluating reservoir operations and the impacts of climate change in the Connecticut River Basin: For this project, downscaled data from climate model projections is fed into hydrology models and is used to construct informed streamflow forecasts. These forecasts in turn support a reservoir management model that enhances the biological community supported by the river, and existing infrastructural services including flood control, water supply, recreation and hydropower generation. 

Climate information for water harvesting and re-use strategies in urban settings: This project explores the impact of changes to precipitation and temperature on the hydrology of urban spaces, and the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems connected to them directly or indirectly through infrastructure. Specifically, we are investigating the relationship between climatological conditions and water/wastewater/stormwater infrastructure, with a focus on impacts of climate conditions on water and wastewater treatment plant performance. We are also exploring the use of various green infrastructure (GI) strategies as a climate change adaptation strategy (through its role in reducing the energy and GHG emissions associated with less stormwater, and facilitating urban evapotranspiration). 

Accurate extra-tropical storm surge modeling: The primary objective of this project is an evaluation of which components of a highly detailed coastal ocean model are most important for predicting storm surge flooding, so that projections of storm surge impacts can be further refined. Our research utilizes a highly detailed hydrodynamic modeling system, the sECOM hydrodynamic model [e.g., Blumberg and Georgas, 2008], which has been demonstrated to provide highly accurate storm surge predictions in an operational context. 

Heat-related mortality risks in the urban Northeast under a changing climate: This project seeks to analyze current and projected future temperature-related mortality impacts across a range of climate change models and scenarios. We will create a statistical model through an analysis of historical mortality data, controlling for air quality, time trends, seasons, and day-of-week effects, and then apply this statistical relationship to future projections of daily temperatures over New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.   

Characterizing urban thermal neighborhoods for climate health impacts: A city’s urban heat island can be subdivided into physically defined neighborhoods that respond differently to large scale environmental forcing. We suggest that average building height, building density, and vegetation density can be used to define “thermal neighborhoods” by applying cluster analysis to these physical variables, plus the spatial location. To test if the neighborhood assignments are meaningful, a field campaign will measure temperatures throughout the urban heat island, and determine if these field measurements do indeed cluster inside each neighborhood.

Climate change scenarios and downscaled climate projections: The large number of available GCMs makes possible model-based probabilistic assessment of future climate projections across a range of climate sensitivities.  Although GCMs are the primary tool used for long-range climate prediction (IPCC, 2007, 2013), the spatial scale of climate model output is still too coarse for most impacts studies and decision-support purposes at the urban scale. Statistical downscaling, which involve statistically relating large-scale climate features to fine-scale climate for a region of interest, can address this spatial resolution gap.

Decision Support Tools

Low Impact Development Rapid Assessment (LIDRA): LIDRA is a tool for comparing the cost effectiveness of reducing runoff with different green infrastructure / low impact development technologies.

Vulnerability and Risk Assessment Tool for Water Utilities (ViRTUE): ViRTUE can be used to rapidly assess climate change and other impacts on smaller water utilities, serving populations of 125,000 or less, in the northeastern United States. The purpose of this tool is to provide stakeholders and water managers with a user-friendly decision system model that enables the exploration of problematic future climate conditions using a stress test, in which the performance of local reservoir systems are tested over a wide range of potential climate and socioeconomic changes.

Other Resources

CCRUN Bibliography: A repository for papers by CCRUN team members, as well as general interest papers on climate impacts and adaptation in the urban Northeast.

CCRUN Climate Change Information: A collection of links to discussions on the nature of climate change and adaptation/mitigation challenges at the global level and in the urban Northeast, as well as a collection of “fact sheets” suitable for use in classroom settings.

CCRUN Green Infrastructure Seminar Series: An archive of seminars hosted at Drexel University on the topic of green infrastructure, and the urban adaptation and mitigation strategies in which it can play a role. Visitors can also register to attend future seminars in person or via the web.

CCRUN Regional Maps: A collection of maps of the urban Northeast relating to infrastructure, demographics, and climate change projections.


Americans’ health, security and economic wellbeing are tied to climate and weather. Every day, we see communities grappling with environmental challenges due to unusual or extreme events related to climate and weather. 


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