The Wrack: climate adaptation

blog of the wells reserve & laudholm trust

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 2/19/2017, and Making It At Home's 2/16/2017 issue.

Snug fit

Image: Volunteer Cliff Babkirk from Sanford pops in a custom-made window insert at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm’s Visitor Center.


My family and I were some of the last visitors to wander through the Willowbrook Museum in Newfield before it permanently closed last fall. As we perused the houses, barns, and sheds filled with furniture and tools from the 19th century, I felt the vast landscape of time lying between then and now.

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He who smelt it, dealt it

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 10/23/2016, and Making It At Home's 10/26/2016 issue.

It’s too early to tally the full damage from Hurricane Matthew, which earlier this month plowed up the Southeast U.S. coast from Florida to North Carolina. Working at the local Wells Reserve, a place that pays a lot of attention to coastal watershed issues, I watched closely as four research reserves in our national system of 28 took the brunt of the storm. Plus, I have a demonstrated interest in manure, so the following story caught my eye.

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Associated People Annie Cox

Ten years ago, New England was pummeled by strong winds and heavy rains as the “Mother’s Day Storm” of 2006 washed out bridges, flooded homes, and damaged businesses, especially along the coast of York County. Less than a year later, the Patriots’ Day Storm added insult to injury and, too soon after that, Superstorm Sandy struck southern Maine a glancing blow.

From Kittery to Cape Elizabeth, a low and relatively flat coastline places communities at risk during extreme weather events. And due to the changing climate, it’s likely that stronger storms will hit more often. Along the coast, their impact will only be worsened by the continuing rise of the sea.

Beach-based businesses, a powerful economic engine for Maine, are generally little prepared for storm surge and coastal flooding. Yet lessons learned from previous disasters underscore how important the recovery of businesses is to the overall recovery of a region’s economy.

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Picture: Julio Cortez/APMantoloking, New Jersey, October 30, 2012.

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 8/30/2015. (Continued from Remembering Katrina, Part I.)

Ten years ago this week, Category 3 Hurricane Katrina left nearly 2,000 people dead, hundreds of communities uprooted, and more than $100 billion in damage along the Gulf Coast. Adding in Superstorm Sandy’s devastation in October 2012, just two events swallowed the equivalent of: five months of Medicare spending, or two years of the federal education budget, or four years’ worth of the Federal Highway Trust Fund, our national gasoline tax-funded infrastructure bank that is now running on empty. So much money, washed out to sea.

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the Lower Ninth Ward

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 8/23/2015.

Perhaps a butterfly flapped its wings in Hong Kong, or perhaps the gods who play dice with the sky rolled double sixes. Whatever the cause, the atmospheric disturbance that formed over the southeastern Bahamas on August 23, 2005, would go on to have massive effects.

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Associated People Annie Cox Chris Feurt

The Wells Reserve recently hosted coastal communities from Kittery to Scarborough for a workshop titled Tracking Progress - Better Safe than Sorry. The workshop was a combination of presentations and group discussions for participants to discuss how their communities are working to improve their resilience to coastal hazards and extreme weather events in light of climate change. The workshop gave participants the opportunity to identify shared goals and track progress towards these goals.

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solar installation at Maine Audubon's Gilsland Farm

Photo: the new sun-tracking solar panels at Maine Audubon


The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 3/29/2015.

Around the time I turned six years old, a funny thing happened. Starting in 1984, each successive month was warmer than its 20th century global average. That doesn’t mean December 1985 was warmer than November 1985. It means December 1985 was warmer, around the world, than the average temperature in December from 1900-1985. So was January 1986. And so was February 1986.

And June 1992. March 1997. August 2004. February 2015.

For the past thirty years (and counting), each month has been warmer than its average. We may remember, year to year, locally colder Januarys or cooler Julys, but around the world, our collective thermometers have not seen a dip for 360 straight months. The odds of this happening randomly are, well, Powerball-esque.

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going, going, going...

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 2/22/2015.

I learned a new word this year. Subnivean, from the Latin for “under” (sub) and “snow” (nives). It’s the zone within and underneath the snowpack. It’s where we’ve all been living lately.

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Which side are you on?Figure 1: A chart of the scientific consensus on climate change (97% of scientists agree that humans are driving global warming), and how much attention the minority opinion seems to receive in the media. Or is it a graph of the amount of America's wealth controlled by the top 3% (54.5%), vs. the bottom 97%?


The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 10/5/2014.

Two weeks ago, my family and I were perched on the steps of the grand fountain in Columbus Circle, Manhattan, watching 300,000 people march past. They sang, they shouted, and they carried thousands of messages, all communicating one thing: world leaders, it’s time to do something about climate change. A week of action followed. Further protests spread around the world, corporations declared carbon reduction goals, and even presidents and prime ministers frankly spoke of “addressing the need to revise a framework for negotiation.”

That’s some progress, anyway.

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Associated People Michael Mahoney Annie Cox Chris Feurt Dana Cohen-Kaplan

Storm-damaged house in Saco, Maine, April 2007

About the Project

The Sandy Dialogues facilitated an exchange of expertise and experience between New Jersey and Maine that culminated in two Maine-based coastal hazard preparedness training workshops. Through this project, the Wells Reserve and its partners learned from New Jersey's Jacques Cousteau Reserve and its stakeholders about the use of decision-support systems, combined with the experience of responding to and recovering from a major storm event.

The Sandy Dialogues stemmed from the earlier Climate Games project in Wells and a sea-level-rise vulnerability assessment done for the New Jersey coast.

Project Period

March to November 2014

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(c) Isaac Cordal

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 3/30/2014.

Even though I work for the Wells Reserve at Laudholm, a coastal research and education center, I’d never thought too deeply about flood insurance – that is, until a crack addict knocked on the door of my home one Saturday night this winter.

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