Evaluation of Impacts of Climate Variability and Change at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California

Team:   William B. Mills (Team Lead; Tetra Tech, Inc.),  Mariza Costa-Cabral (Science P.I.; Hydrology Futures, LLC), Norman L. Miller (Lawrence Berkeley National Lab., U.C. Berkeley and U. Arizona), Peter Bromirski (SCRIPPS), Sujoy Roy (Tetra Tech, Inc.) and Robert Coats (Hydroikos Ltd. and U.C. Berkeley).
Our role: Mariza Costa-Cabral is Science PI and leads the flooding risk study.

Client: NASA

Project Timeline: 2012-2014

view AGU 2012 poster 


In accordance with Executive Order 13514 dated October 5, 2009, the President mandates that all agencies evaluate vulnerabilities to climate variability and change in terms of how the changes would impact the mission and operations of the agencies. This project is a response to that mandate, and focuses on one of those centers: the NASA Ames Research Center (NASA ARC) located in Silicon Valley, California. 

At this location NASA ARC conducts research and cooperatively works with local universities and research organizations located in the valley. Its mission categories include supercomputing, intelligent systems, astrobiology, nanotechnology, information technology, aviation, and others. NASA ARC has an infrastructure valued at $3.2 billion, employs approximately 2300 personnel, and has an annual budget of $600 million.

NASA ARC is vulnerable to climate change due to its location adjacent to South San Francisco Bay. Studies underway or completed have identified potential climate change and impacts (see https://c3.ndc.nasa.gov/nex/projects/361/). Those impacts include:

+ Increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme storms that could produce unprecedented flooding across the site.

+ Sea level rise that could exceed a meter by the end of the 21st century in conjunction with extreme high tides and storm surges.

+ Increase in extreme wind speeds that could impair aviation operations.

+ Increases in frequency, duration and severity of heat waves over the 21st century. As air temperature increases, air density decreases, and those changes could impact the performance of outdoor aviation operations.

+ Elevated groundwater table beneath NASA ARC from higher sea levels. If plumes of TCE that are present near the site migrate beneath on-site buildings, vapor could intrude into those buildings and pose a health risk to the occupants.

+ Impacts on the wetlands near the bayside base boundary. Wetlands can help to mitigate impacts of sea level rise and storm surge and provide habitat for many kinds of animals.

+ Habitat loss at other locations on the Center. For example, NASA ARC has allocated about 81 acres to the protection of the burrowing owl (a California species of special concern).

Our assessment of climate change impacts will take into account NASA ARC's mission objectives and envisioned evolution for the future.