Princeton-born play makes off-Broadway debut

Princeton-born play on climate change

A musical about climate change that was born at Princeton made its New York City debut in April 2014.

A MUSICAL ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE that was born at Princeton made its New York City debut in April 2014. Both entertaining and informative, The Great Immensity focuses on the quintessential question of our time: How can we change our society to solve the enormous environmental challenges we confront?

The play came to life in 2010 in a novel collaboration involving the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) and the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Atelier program, which brings together professional artists from different disciplines with Princeton students to create new works. The play was developed by PEI Barron Visiting Professors Steven Cosson, theater director, and Michael Friedman, composer/lyricist, both founders of The Civilians, a New Yorkbased investigative theater group. The project later received a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The Civilians performed The Great Immensity at the Public Theater Lab, after a 2012 run at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre.

–By Ilene Dube

Green roofs’ energy savings hinge on climate

Green roofs

Green roofs, such as these above the dormitory at Princeton’s Butler College, must be designed so that they take advantage of local climate conditions. (Photo by Brian Green)

Urban planners who want green roofs in their cities need to remember that the roofs may not work the same way in different climates. Green roofs, which are covered with a layer of a vegetation to keep the building cool, perform differently according to the amount of solar radiation and precipitation present, according to Elie Bou-Zeid, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.

In a study published in the journal Building and Environment, Bou-Zeid and his team found that the green roofs on the campuses of Princeton and Tsinghua University in Beijing performed similarly when the researchers controlled for the radiation and precipitation levels in the two areas, indicating the levels’ importance in green roof function. With support from the U.S. Department of Energy through Pennsylvania State University’s Energy Efficiency Building Hub and the National Science Foundation of China, the researchers used surface temperature, heat convection from the Earth’s surface to the atmosphere, and the amount of incident energy conducted through the roof as performance measures.

Bou-Zeid

Elie Bou-Zeid, an assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering, stands with a wireless sensing station that measures wind speed and direction, air temperature, relative humidity, surface temperature, and incoming and reflected solar radiation from black and white roofs. (Photo by Elle Starkman)

Bou-Zeid said he hopes his work will help city planners account for the specific climatic conditions in their cities when integrating rooftop gardens into their building decisions, and assess the potential benefits of irrigation that improves green roof performance in dry periods.

Highly effective green roofs are important in cities, which suffer from the “urban heat island” phenomenon: a sustained period of excessive heat in metropolitan areas caused by buildings that absorb heat and release it into the atmosphere, a lack of vegetation, and high human activity. Increasing the number of green spaces will trap rainwater, Bou-Zeid explained, thereby providing a “heat sink” in which evaporation of that water encourages heat loss and cools things down.

The New York City Office of the Mayor is taking the heat waves of the city particularly seriously, Bou-Zeid said. New York’s asphalt and concrete roads and buildings actively absorb heat, making the area sometimes up to seven degrees warmer than its neighbors. Bou-Zeid is working with representatives from the NYC Cool Roofs program, a citywide initiative to promote the use of reflective, white rooftop coating, to examine which areas of the city will suffer most during a heat wave. He later hopes to relate physical maps of area-specific heat stress in the city to physical health indicators.

“Heat waves are the deadliest natural disasters,” Bou-Zeid said. He noted that the 2003 European heat wave, which produced the Northern Hemisphere’s hottest-ever August, caused up to 70,000 deaths in the region. “They are silent killers.”

–By Tara Thean

Spotlight on the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory

Sea turtles

Unchecked climate change will likely almost completely wipe out the eastern Pacific leatherback sea turtle by the end of the century, according to researchers at GFDL and Princeton University.

Princeton researchers collaborate closely with researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), located about three miles from the University’s main campus at Princeton’s Forrestal Campus. GFDL is a leading research center in the development and use of mathematical models and computer simulations to improve our understanding and prediction of the behavior of the atmosphere, ocean and climate.

GFDL efforts include hurricane research and prediction, seasonal forecasting, and understanding and projecting climate change.

In the July 2012 issue of Nature Climate Change, Vincent Saba, a research fishery biologist with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service based at GFDL and a visiting research collaborator in Princeton’s Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and colleagues reported that unchecked climate change will likely almost completely wipe out the eastern Pacific leatherback sea turtle by the end of the century.