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fers.Tisresultsinstreetandbasementfloodingafterheavyrains.InRotter-
dam,excessrainwatercanbetemporarilystoredbeneathmunicipalparking
orinwaterplazasthatalsoserveasparksorplaygroundswhendry.Planting
“greenroofs”alsohelpscurbexcessrunoff.
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New York City
Astheygoabouttheirdailytasks,mostNewYorkersremainoblivioustothe
city’sstatusasanislandandamajorseaport.Tecityboastsnearly600 miles
(970kilometers)ofshoreline,andfourofitsfiveboroughsareislands.How-
ever, the city’s waterfront is undergoing a major transformation. Shipping,
exceptforcruiseships,haslargelymovedtonearbyStatenIslandandBay-
onne,NewJersey.Pedestrianwalkwaysandbicyclepathsnowreplacerotting
piers and abandoned warehouses and factories. New high-rise apartment
complexessproutlikemushrooms.
New York City recognizes the issues of global warming and sea level
rise in its waterfront redevelopment plans. Te city currently is among the
10 portcitiesmostvulnerabletocoastalflooding,intermsofpopulationand
assets.
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Bythe2070s,NewYorkCitywillstillremainamongthetop10port
citiesatrisk,basedonassets.Wintercyclonesandhurricaneshaveflooded
partsofthecityinthepast,mostrecentlyduringthe“nor’easter”ofDecem-
ber1992,discussedabove.
Te mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability manages
city-owned infrastructure. Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently commis-
sionedastudybyexpertsfromtheNASAGoddardInstituteforSpaceStud-
ies,ColumbiaUniversity,otherregionaluniversities,andtheprivatesector
toadviseonclimatechangerisksarisingfromchangesintemperature,pre-
cipitation,andsealevelchangeandtorecommendadaptationstrategies.
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Table 9.1 Rotterdam and New York City Compared
City Rotterdam NewYorkCity
2Iuu 2u8u–2u9u
(rel.toI99u) (rel.to2uuu)
SeaLevelRise u.63–I.3m u.3–u.38m(centralrange)
u.67m(max.)
“Rapidicemelt” — I.u–I.4m
I-in-Iuu-yearfloodheight 2.8m 2.9–3.3m
Sources: Rotterdam data from Delta Commissie (2uu8), Aerts et al. (2uu9). New York City data from
Hortonetal.(2uIu).
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244 C O P I N G WI T H T H E R I S I N G WAT E R S
Te New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) 2010 report proj-
ectsfuturesealevelrisebasedonsevenGlobalCirculationModels(GCMs)
andthreegreenhousegasemissionsscenarios(IPCCSRESA2,A1B,andB2).
Teseprojections,modifiedfromIPCCmethodology,includeglobalcontri-
butions from thermal expansion and meltwater (glaciers, ice caps, and ice
sheets), as well as local land subsidence, mainly due to glacial isostatic ad-
justments,andlocalchangesinwaterheightfromseatemperature,salinity,
and ocean currents. (Other factors affecting sea level, such as gravitational
androtationalterms,werenotincluded.)Tosimulatepotentialdynamicice
acceleration,anupper-limit,high-impact“RapidIce-Melt”scenarioassumes
thatglaciersandicesheetswillmeltatratescomparabletothoseoftheLast
Glacial Termination (chapter 5), when sea level climbed at an average rate
of0.39–0.47inches(10–12millimeters)peryear.Tisscenarioassumesthat
meltwaterrisesexponentiallyfromthepresentmeanicemeltrateof1.1cen-
timeters per decade between 2000 and 2004, going to 2100. Tis term is
addedtotheotherthreesealevelterms,whichremainunchanged.
Te GCM-based projections show a sea level rise of 7–12 inches (18–
30 centimeters)
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bythe2050sand12–23inches(30–58centimeters)bythe
2080s(table9.2).Sealevelreaches-41–55inches(104–140centimeters)by
the2080sinthe“RapidIce-Melt”scenario.
Te frequency, intensity, and duration of coastal flooding will likely in-
crease along with a rising sea. Te 100-year flood return curve (or “stage-
frequencyrelationship”)forNewYorkCitywascalculatedfromaU.S.Army
Corps of Engineers hydrodynamic model with both surge and tidal com-
ponents.
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Sealevelrisereducesthe100-yearreturnperiodtooncein15–
35 yearsbythe2080s.
Ahigheraveragesealevelwouldexacerbatestreet,basement,andsewer
floodinganddisrupttransportationmorefrequently.Itwouldincreaserates
Table 9.2 Sea level rise projections for New York City
2u2us 2u3us 2u8us
GCM-basedscenarios 2–3inches 7–I2inches I2–23inches
3.I–I3centimeters I8–3ucentimeters 3u–38centimeters
“Rapidicemelt”scenario 3–Iuinches -I9–29inches -4I–33inches
I3–23centimeters 48–74centimeters Iu4–I4ucentimeters
Source:RosenzweigandSolecki(2uIu),Hortonetal.(2uIu).Numbersrepresentsealevelriserelativeto
theyear2uuuforthemid-67percentofthemodelprojections.
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C O P I N G WI T H T H E R I S I N G WAT E R S 245
ofbeacherosion,necessitatingadditionalbeachnourishmentprograms.Salt
waterwouldencroachfartherintofreshwatersourcesandpotentiallydam-
ageinfrastructure.
TeNPCCrecommendsthatNewYorkCitybegintodevelop“flexiblead-
aptationpathways”thatcanbeadjustedperiodicallytothelatestprojections
ofsealevelrise.Existingriskandhazardmanagementstrategiescanthenbe
revised as needed. Te NPCC’s Adaptation Assessment Guidebook (AAG)
recommendsthatcityagenciesbegintoprepareaninventoryofinfrastruc-
tureandassetsatrisk,linkadaptationstrategiestocapitalandrehabilitation
cycles, and periodically monitor and reassess plans in response to newer
climateinformation.Inaddition,theNPCCoffersageneralprocessforcre-
atingasetofclimatechange–relateddesignandperformancestandards(cli-
mateprotectionlevels,orCPLs).Mostimportantistoupdatecurrent1-in-
100-yearfloodzonemaps(e.g.,FEMA’smaps)toincorporatefuturesealevel
riseandcoastalflooding(table9.2,fig.9.10).
Te New York City Department of City Planning has recently unveiled
itsVision2020:NewYorkCityComprehensiveWaterfrontPlanforthere-
vitalization of the waterfront.
3u
Te plan envisions enhanced public access
tothewaterfrontandutilizationofthewaterways,aswellasneweconomic
developmentandresidentialconstruction.TedelineationoftheNewYork
CityCoastalZoneBoundaryusedinwaterfrontrevitalizationshouldalsobe
updatedtoreflectthelatestsealevelriseprojections.
REACTING TO THE RISING WATERS
InNorfolk,Virginia,sealevelriseisnotheoreticalmatter—itisalreadyoc-
curring! High spring tides regularly flood streets in some neighborhoods,
forcingresidentstore-parktheircarsawayfromtheshoreanddetouraround
deep puddles. Norfolk, near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, is surrounded
onthreesidesbywater.Naturalsubsidenceplussettlingandcompactionof
reclaimed marshland add to the rising water, making the relative sea level
trendof4.44millimeters(0.17inches)peryearoneofthehighestalongthe
East Coast. After extensive lobbying by local residents, the city decided to
raisetheworst-hitstreetby46centimeters(18inches)andtoreadjuststorm
drainpipestopreventstreetflooding.FEMAhasalsospent$144,000toraise
sixhouses,stimulatingobjectionsoverhighcostsandthefutilityofendless
countermeasures.
3I
Temayorconcedesthatiftheseakeepsrising,thecity
will eventually need to create “retreat zones,” but those most affected (like
their counterparts in Corton, England) strongly prefer “action at any cost.”
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246 C O P I N G WI T H T H E R I S I N G WAT E R S
Meanwhile, the city will select its flood-mitigation projects more carefully
andexplorealternativeslikeinflatabledamsorstorm-surgefloodgates.
In general, the response to the rising sea follows either of two divergent
pathways.Tefirstcourseentailsstayingputandholdingthelineforaslong
as possible. Coastal development continues (with minor restrictions) and
theshoreisdefendedbyamixof“hard”armoring,softer,morenaturalsolu-
tions, or accommodation by means of innovative architecture and design.
Figure 9.10 New York City FEMA 100-year-flood maps with sea level rise based on NPCC sea
level rise projections. (Map by K. Grady, A. Marko, L. Patrick, W. Solecki, Climate Protection
Level Workbook, in Rosenzweig and Solecki, 2010, fig. 3, p. 317.)
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