Thursday, August 29, 2013

New York at risk from combination of rising seas and stronger hurricanes, experts warn

The NOAA agency's larger map indicates that sea levels
near New Orleans increased at a rate of 9.24 millimeters a year between 1947 and 2006 — three feet over the course of a century. 

Projections by the National Weather Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers show that much of the five boroughs will be submerged if another strong hurricane hits New York in the year 2100.

 In its forthcoming report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that sea level could rise by as much as six feet by the end of the century.
photo : Stephen Wilkes (National Geographic)

Thanks to rising seas brought on by global warming, New Yorkers can count on a very wet, deadly, and expensive future.
Based on projections from the National Weather Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, if a storm equivalent in strength to Hurricane Sandy were to hit the five boroughs in the year 2100, vastly larger swaths of the city would be submerged.
The reason is simple.
Sea levels are forecast to rise by as much as six feet before the end of the century, making low lying cities like New York all but defenseless to the wrath of powerful storms.

 Given the dire predictions on how fast sea level is rising, New York could face annual flood costs of $2 billion per year.
In its September issue, National Geographic spoke with several experts who proposed ways to try and protect the city.

Unfortunately, over the past decade, scientific projections on sea level rise have grown rapidly as more data on climate change has continued to be analyzed.
Six years ago. the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimate that by 2100 sea level would rise by a maximum of 23 inches. In a draft of this year’s report, the final version of which is to be released this fall, the IPCC revised that outlook to a maximum of six feet.
“In the last several years we’ve observed accelerated melting of the ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica,” Radley Horton, a research scientist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute in New York City, told National Geographic in its September issue. “The concern is that if the acceleration continues, by the time we get to the end of the 21st century, we could see sea-level rise of as much as six feet globally instead of two to three feet.”

 Hurricane Sandy, which killed 43 people, caused an estimated $19 billion in damages in New York.
photo : Iwan Baan (National Geographic)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed that the city spend $19.5 billion to mount a defense against rising seas, roughly the same amount New York faced in losses as a result of Hurricane Sandy (43 people died in the city because of the storm).
Whether the mayor’s plan will be embraced before he leaves office, or will be championed by his successor, remains to be seen.
“Eventually the city will have to face up to this, because the problem is going to get worse,” Malcolm Bowman, a physical oceanographer at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, told National Geographic. 
“It might take five years of study and another ten years to get the political will to do it. By then there might have been another disaster. We need to start planning immediately. Otherwise we’re mortgaging the future and leaving the next generation to cope as best it can.”
In the absence of bold new measures, including the construction of massive storm surge barriers, the financial toll the city faces from rising sea levels in the not too distant future is more than a little daunting.
A new study by Nature Climate Change estimates that New York City faces about $2 billion in annual losses from flooding in 2050.

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