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James W. Sewall


Photos courtesy of the National Weather Service, Caribou, Maine


Climate & weather

The Challenge

One of the greatest challenges facing society is adjusting to the potential effects of climatic change such as increased frequency of large storms. Various impacts of a warmer climate have been recorded, from rising sea level associated with melting glaciers and expansion of warmer ocean waters to a greater frequency and/or magnitude of extreme weather and climatic events, such as hurricanes, nor'easters (winter coastal storms), droughts and heat waves. Not only can such changes have a severe effect on a community's infrastructure, but they can also modify natural ecosystems, sometimes permanently. Stream systems and wetland areas are especially vulnerable to changes in water levels and the resulting change in water quality with either increased or decreased flows. Seemingly routine matters such as discharge from wastewater plants, for example, can become serious issues if there is inadequate river flow in the summer to dilute the discharge.

Many municipalities and state agencies are planning for the possibility of different conditions in the future that can affect water supply, roads and drainage systems, and for the application of innovative low impact development (LID) and stormwater management solutions that will mitigate the problem. Future temperature conditions also have the potential to modify the composition of regional forests and alter watershed dynamics, a concern to the forest industry and related businesses. Many states have adopted a Climate Action Plan (CAP) to drive myriad initiatives from slowing sprawl to reduce vehicle miles traveled to managing forests to adapt to extremes of climate and weather. The CAP also addresses the economics of the process. Implementing such plans, however, requires action from not only government agencies, but from various stakeholders in the fields of transportation and land use, buildings, facilities and manufacturing, energy and solid waste, and agriculture and forestry.

The Solutions

Sewall is in a prime position to take the lead in assessing various aspects of not only climatic change and its impact, but also extreme weather and climatological events. Sewall is conducting wind, biomass and solar energy resource studies that allow existing and future clients to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) and adhere to the CAP and similar plans around the country and in Canada. We help our clients:

  • Evaluate trends in various climatic parameters, such as temperature, precipitation (both rain and snow), and wind, as well as specific types of storm events
  • Implement plans that follow the recommendations of the Maine Climate Plan in the general area of forestry, providing guidance in establishing forestland protection plans, the use of fast growing trees, and other forestry practices that enhance the sequestration of carbon
  • Implement plans that follow the recommendations of the Maine Climate Plan in the general area of increasing energy efficiency through the use of alternate energy sources including wind and biomass fuels, as well as promote and design energy efficiency buildings
  • Evaluate sea level rise in coastal areas using LIDAR, available maps and web-based GIS tools (where available) to predict the impact under different sea level scenarios. Tidal gauge records are also available to assist in the evaluation of infrastructure and ecosystem loss.
  • Conduct research on changes in climatic conditions with time and the relationship among climate, weather events, and hydrological conditions
  • Assist in writing proposals for climate-related projects, outreach and education
  • Categorize cold-season storms, like nor’easters, using the classification scheme developed by members of Sewall's Environmental Sciences

The Benefits

With the information we provide, government officials, municipalities, and stakeholders can:

  • Make informed decisions based on the economics of dealing with extreme events
  • Reduce GHG through the use of renewable energy sources
  • Manage forests with greater understanding of the impacts of changing climatic conditions on forest and soil carbon cycles and of new forest practices that address this issue
  • Develop energy-efficient buildings that save money and help reduce the overall carbon footprint
  • Manage watersheds using modeling of the potential increases and types of extreme events that could impact individual ecosystems
  • Support zoning and development ordinances to mitigate the effect of climate change
  • Design culverts and road crossings based on precipitation events to prevent wash-outs with major storms, and the application LID and stormwater management plans
  • Prepare for the possible impacts of sea level rise and the resulting loss of infrastructure and associated costs
  • Prepare for the different types of impact from cold-season storms, such as snow removal and overall transportation problems


More Info

Environmental sciences

Stormwater utilities (PDF)

Residential stormwater management (PDF)

Stormwater planning and stream crossing for municipalities (PDF)

Water/wastewater engineering

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Scott Graham, PE
Vice President
207 478 9509

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