The climate change discussion just got real in New York City.
Past studies have shown us that New York is vulnerable to all kinds of climate-related problems, including rising temperatures and flooding. But a new report from the New York City Panel on Climate Change just drove the point home again with some frightening new numbers.
Here are some of the report’s most serious projections for the coming decades. Each projection includes a range of possibilities, rather than one solid number. This is because scientists base their predictions off several different climate models. The low numbers reflect the more conservative climate models, and the high numbers are taken from the more extreme ones.
Average annual temperatures in the city are expected to rise much faster in the coming decades than they have in the past. By the 2050s, the report predicts, average yearly temperatures will rise by between 4.1 and 5.7 degrees Fahrenheit. By the 2080s, we’ll likely see an uptick of between 5.3 and 8.8 degrees.
That is a terrifying increase. By comparison, average temperatures for the region have only increased by 3.4 degrees since 1900.
All this extra heating won’t just be gradual, however. Heat waves in the city are also expected to triple by the 2080s.
If you thought summer in the city is hot now, just wait a few decades.
Climate change will also cause a rise in rain and snowfall.
Average annual precipitation will likely rise by between 4% and 11% by the 2050s and between 5% and 13% by the 2080s.
But we won’t just see an increase in average precipitation throughout the year. The number of severe storms (the type that involve a lot of snow and rain) will rise too. By the 2080s, the city could see 1.5 times as many days of extreme rain or snowfall.
Sea level rise
New York City is especially vulnerable to sea level rise as it is surrounded by water.
As the climate continues to warm and ice in the polar regions continues to melt, it washes into the ocean and adds more volume to the water.
Sea level in the city could rise between 11 and 21 inches by the 2050s. By the 2080s, it could rise between 18 and 39 inches, and by the end of the century it could rise 75 inches, or six feet.
How the rising seas will change coastal flooding is a little less clear because of the way shorelines vary around the city. For instance, many parts of Queens and Brooklyn have smooth, flat shores, while Manhattan’s shores are steeper. But the report warns that flooding could increase by anywhere from two to 15 times its current frequency and intensity.
The report also includes other, less quantifiable warnings about the effect these climate consequences will have on public health. Depending on how bad things get in the city throughout the century, heat-related deaths could increase, infectious diseases could spread, and people living in vulnerable coastal areas could find themselves homeless.
While we can’t be sure exactly how much humans will suffer in the wake of these climate effects, the striking numbers in this report can be taken as a clear warning: New York City, brace yourself.
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