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Will warming wash-away Wall Street?

Cross-posted from The Great Beyond

nat geo graph.bmpNew Yorkers beware! A new study published in Nature Geoscience says the north-eastern US coast will be in more trouble from global warming than previously believed.

Looking at the predictions from a whole set of different climate models, researchers Jianjun Yin, Michael Schlesinger and Ronald Stouffer found that changes in ocean circulation will result in higher sea levels in the region, over and above expected global sea level changes. Depending on whether greenhouse gas emissions are low or high, an additional rise of between 15 and 21 cm can be expected by 2100, they say.

“Some parts of lower Manhattan are only 1.5 meters above sea level,” says Yin, a researcher at Florida State University (National Geographic). “Twenty centimetres of extra rise would pose a threat to this region.”

The graphic right shows dynamic sea level rises at coastal cities worldwide in the medium greenhouse-gas emission scenario, due to the knock on effects of changes in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation.

“Our results show that 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,” write the researchers. “It should be noted that the impact of the melting of the Greenland ice sheet on the [Atlantic meridional overturning circulation] is not taken into account here.”


This research follows on from another study, in Science, which suggests that US coastal states will see a sea level rise 30% higher than the uniform rise when the giant ice sheet in West Antarctica melts.

Commenting on the new study, Jonathan Overpeck, of the University of Arizona, told AP, “Our coastlines aren’t designed for that extra 8 inches of storm surge you get out of that sea level rise effect.”

Maybe New Yorkers should consider paying a premium for those higher-ground penthouse flats. Otherwise they may wake up in a city that doesn’t sleep and find they’re king of the hill, top of the heap, and rather wet.

Daniel Cressey

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