Sea level rise due to global warming poses threat to New York City

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Global warming is expected to cause the sea level along the northeastern U.S. coast to rise almost twice as fast as global sea levels during this century, putting New York City at greater risk for damage from hurricanes and winter storm surge, according to a new study led by a Florida State University researcher.

Jianjun Yin, a climate modeler at the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies (COAPS) at Florida State, said there is a better than 90 percent chance that the sea level rise along this heavily populated coast will exceed the mean global sea level rise by the year 2100. The rising waters in this region — perhaps by as much as 18 inches or more — can be attributed to thermal expansion and the slowing of the North Atlantic Ocean circulation because of warmer ocean surface temperatures.

Yin and colleagues Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Ronald Stouffer of Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton University are the first to reach that conclusion after analyzing data from 10 state-of-the-art climate models, which have been used for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report. Yin’s study, “Model Projections of Rapid Sea Level Rise on the Northeast Coast of the United States,” will be published online March 15 in the journal Nature Geoscience.

“The northeast coast of the United States is among the most vulnerable regions to future changes in sea level and ocean circulation, especially when considering its population density and the potential socioeconomic consequences of such changes,” Yin said. “The most populous states and cities of the United States and centers of economy, politics, culture and education are located along that coast.”

The researchers found that the rapid sea-level rise occurred in all climate models whether they depicted low, medium or high rates of greenhouse-gas emissions. In a

medium greenhouse-gas emission scenario, the New York City coastal area would see an additional rise of about 8.3 inches above the mean sea level rise that is expected around the globe because of human-induced climate change.

Thermal expansion and the melting of land ice, such as the Greenland ice sheet, are expected to cause the global sea-level rise. The researchers projected the global sea-level rise of 10.2 inches based on thermal expansion alone. The contribution from the land ice melting was not assessed in this study due to uncertainty.

Considering that much of the metropolitan region of New York City is less than 16 feet above the mean sea level, with some parts of lower Manhattan only about 5 feet above the mean sea level, a rise of 8.3 inches in addition to the global mean rise would pose a threat to this region, especially if a hurricane or winter storm surge occurs, Yin said.

Potential flooding is just one example of coastal hazards associated with sea-level rise, Yin said, but there are other concerns as well. The submersion of low-lying land, erosion of beaches, conversion of wetlands to open water and increase in the salinity of estuaries all can affect ecosystems and damage existing coastal development.

Although low-lying Florida and Western Europe are often considered the most vulnerable to sea level changes, the northeast U.S. coast is particularly vulnerable because the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) is susceptible to global warming. The AMOC is the giant circulation in the Atlantic with warm and salty seawater flowing northward in the upper ocean and cold seawater flowing southward at depth. Global warming could cause an ocean surface warming and freshening in the high-latitude North Atlantic, preventing the sinking of the surface water, which would slow the AMOC.


Sea level rise due to global warming poses threat to New York City

7 Responses to Sea level rise due to global warming poses threat to New York City

  1. Anonymous June 9, 2009 at 9:37 am #

    im so sorry that was my friend….and he is high as a plane right now…….

  2. Anonymous June 9, 2009 at 9:35 am #

    your all nuts

  3. Fred Bortz March 15, 2009 at 5:37 pm #

    To the anonymous commenter:
    You need to read things more carefully.

    To put your quoted sentence (“The researchers found that the rapid sea-level rise occurred in all climate models whether they depicted low, medium or high rates of greenhouse-gas emissions.”) in context, start with the opening sentence of the article:

    Global warming is expected to cause the sea level along the northeastern U.S. coast [emphasis added] to rise almost twice as fast as global sea levels during this century,…

    In other words, ALL MODELS AGREE that problems from sea level rise are going to be worse than average along the northeastern coast, FOR ALL GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSION LEVELS, even in the low range where the sea level rise is lowest. The models also agree that the more greenhouse gases we produce, the more severe the changes are going to be.

    So regardless of which model makes the best prediction, it is reasonable to conclude that New York will need to adjust to a greater rise in sea level that other places in the world.

    All climate scientists recognize that any one model is inherently a simplification of nature. But when all the models agree in their qualitative predictions, it is foolhardy to dismiss their conclusions because their exact numerical results and error bars around them vary.

    Fred Bortz
    Children’s Science Books
    and
    Science Book Reviews

  4. Anonymous March 15, 2009 at 5:31 pm #

    Read carefully: there is a better than 90 percent chance that the sea level rise along this heavily populated coast will exceed the mean global sea level rise by the year 2100.

    A better than 90 % chance? and in 2100 !! lol – may be some kinda Chinese weed

  5. Anonymous March 15, 2009 at 5:02 pm #

    “The researchers found that the rapid sea-level rise occurred in all climate models whether they depicted low, medium or high rates of greenhouse-gas emissions.”
    This should tell us something about how well these climate models (that we’re supposed to bet our industrial future and that of the third world on) actually model the complexity of climate.
    Has anyone else noticed that the more polls show public skepticism rising, the more extreme the attention getting warnings seem to become?

  6. Fred Bortz March 16, 2009 at 3:23 pm #

    Anonymous, I wish you would identify yourself so I know whom I am discussing things with, and to distinguish yourself from other anonymous ones.

    The “same basic premise and assumptions” are called the laws of physics. The models differ in the details that each includes–necessary approximations to make computations feasible and to account for incomplete geographic and weather data. Thus they differ in their predictions. That makes the predictions on which they agree particularly noteworthy.

    Your claim that “none of them have been accurate so far” is incorrect in the extreme. They have been all been tested against historical data and have produced results that are consistent with those data. They have been refined by that testing, and their predictions all have error bars. Their results are fully in agreement with existing climate data.

    Each of them is a highly refined and detailed computer program reflecting a great deal of climate science and experience. Of course, they are all imperfect; but each is imperfect in its own way.

    Even with those imperfections, all of them predict rising sea levels because of expansion due to increasing temperatures and because of additional water from polar icecap melting. They underestimate the sea level rise, perhaps substantially, because they neglect land-based ice slipping into the ocean.

    The article under discussion here notes that all the models agree that the northeast U.S. coast will face greater increases in sea level than elsewhere.

    To understand how climate scientists develop, argue about, and use different climate models, I suggest you read Chris Mooney’s insightful book Storm World, which I reviewed for several major metropolitan newspapers.

    Fred Bortz
    Children’s Science Books
    and
    Science Book Reviews

  7. Anonymous March 16, 2009 at 1:14 pm #

    How much variation is there in sea level at this time? I realize there is always a temporary difference worldwide due to tides, storms, etc. but I doubt they are quasi permanent as this study seems to suggest will be the norm in the future. We will henceforth need to qualify “sea level” by it’s geographical location?

    It’s great that all these computer models “agree” on the results, more or less. It only shows that if you start them all with the same basic premise and assumptions, you are going to get the same basic results. Since none of them have been accurate thus far it’s really hard to get in line with betting the farm on any of them.

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