Report: New York City area at risk of permanent flooding
Monday, January 23, 2017, 9:00 -
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 13, 2016
The country's largest city could significantly shrink in size in a matter of years due to rising sea levels, according to a new report.
According to a study by the Regional Plan Association (RPA), sea levels surrounding the New York metropolitan area have risen a foot since 1900—and, due to our rapidly changing climate, could rise another foot by 2030 (or 2050 in a best-case scenario).
The report focuses on the places in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut metropolitan area that are most at risk of being permanently flooded, and describes the effects of 1, 3 and 6 feet of sea-level rise on neighborhoods, employment centers and infrastructure.
While the area has made significant improvements in the years since Superstorm Sandy to consider storm-related flooding, the author’s say more needs to be done to protect the area from more permanent flooding in the next 15 years.
It's "long past the point where sea-level rise can be ignored in the hope that future technology will provide an easy solution," said the association, an independent urban research and advocacy organization for the Tri-state area.
One key finding included the accelerating pace at which seas are rising. The RPA says sea levels could rise around one foot as soon as the 2030s, and as much as three feet as early as the 2080s. Six feet of sea level rise could come early in the next century.
Without additional protective measures, one foot of sea level rise would inundate nearly 60 square miles, where more than 19,000 residents in 10,000 homes live today, and where approximately 10,000 people work, according to the report. If current projections hold and sea levels jump three feet by 2080, areas that are periodically flooded will become permanently inundated, including the runways and some terminals at LaGuardia.
Flooding will also affect subway service and portions of the Metro North Hudson line. Parts of Bridgeport and New Haven in Connecticut will also be permanently submerged, and up to 40,000 Long Island residents could be permanently displaced by flooding.
“The barrier beach and back bay communities of the Jersey Shore and Long Island’s south shore are among the most difficult to protect,” notes the RPA. “Many of these could begin to be affected by one foot of sea level rise, and nearly all will be impacted by 6 feet.”
A six-foot rise would completely transform the coastline we know today. A large swath of Brooklyn and Queens—including Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and the Rockaways—would be completely submerged in less than a century. Manhattan, Harlem, Battery Park City, Chelsea, Hudson Yards and the Lower East Side would be permanently flooded, and parts of the Bronx including Throggs Neck, University Heights, and Edgewater Park would see periodic flooding.
While LaGuardia and parts of Newark Liberty Airport would be impacted, JFK would be spared for the most part, according to the report.
A separate study based on a combination of historical data and computer model projections, scientists concluded that hurricanes could start flooding New York City's coastline as often as every 20 years due to the effects of climate change on sea-level rise and hurricane activity.
The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences aimed to measure how frequently floods like those produced by Hurricane Sandy in the U.S. states of New York and New Jersey could occur until 2100. Scientists said water could surge some 9 feet in hurricanes occurring anywhere from three to 17 times more often than today.
The RPA, meanwhile, has outlined three broad solutions to prepare for the rising sea levels: pumping sand onto beaches and building higher sea walls, creating more elevated buildings and other infrastructure that will adapt to rising sea levels, and abandoning coastal development altogether. All of these solutions, they point out, require a great deal of funding and planning on a federal, state and local level.
To read the full report released by the Regional Plan Association, click here.