New Report Outlines Dire Climate Change Projections for NYC

June 26, 2009 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

the White House released a new climate-change report from the U.S. Global Change Research Program. In short, the study found that the nation’s average annual temperature has risen more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 50 years, and is expected to keep rising.

We were particularly interested in those projections of the report that are relevant to New York. For example, cities in the Northeast that currently experience a few 100-degree-plus summer days will average 20 such days per summer by late this century, if emissions are not reduced. Or the finding that a combination of extreme heat and declining air quality will lead to increased health risks in the Northeast’s urban areas.

But perhaps the most startling findings were those pertaining to sea-level rise:

The densely populated coasts of the Northeast face substantial increases in the extent and frequency of storm surge, coastal flooding, erosion, property damage, and loss of wetlands. New York state alone has more than $2.3 trillion in insured coastal property. Much of this coastline is exceptionally vulnerable to sea-level rise and related impacts. Some major insurers have withdrawn coverage from thousands of homeowners in coastal areas of the Northeast, including New York City.

Rising sea level is projected to increase the frequency and severity of damaging storm surges and flooding. Under a higher emissions scenario, what is now considered a once-in-a-century coastal flood in New York City is projected to occur at least twice as often by mid-century, and 10 times as often (or once per decade on average) by late this century.

These statements are accompanied by a map (pictured above) that illustrates the area of the city that, as of today, is expected to flood once every 100 years. It covers portions of the West Side Highway, Battery Park, the Battery Tunnel, F.D.R. Drive, Wall Street and South Street Seaport. But! “With rising sea levels, a 100-year flood at the end of this century (not mapped here) is projected to inundate a far larger area of New York City.” More bad news: “Critical transportation infrastructure located in the Battery area of lower Manhattan could be flooded far more frequently unless protected. The increased likelihood of flooding is causing planners to look into building stormsurge barriers in New York Harbor to protect downtown New York City.”

Incidentally, the next meeting of New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force is scheduled for June 29 at the N.Y.S. Department of Public Service Offices on Church Street. The agenda includes risk assessments for infrastructure, ecosystems and natural resources, as well as vulnerability mapping session.
By Joe Pompeo
New York Observer NY Futures Initiative

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Entry filed under: Natural Waterfront, Region. Tags: , , .

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