Streams

Sea Level Rise From Climate Change Could Turn New York Into Venice

Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 06:06 PM

Malcolm Bowman (photo by Jim O'Grady)

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Malcolm Bowman, an oceanography professor from Stony Brook University in Long Island, stood at the snow-covered edge of the Williamsburg waterfront and pointed toward the Midtown skyline. "Looking at the city, with the setting sun behind the Williamsburg Bridge, it's a sea of tranquility," he said. "It's hard to imagine the dangers lying ahead."

But that's his job.

He said that as climate change brings higher temperatures and more violent storms, flooding in parts of the city could become as routine as the heavy snows of this winter. We could even have "flood days," the way we now have snow days. Bowman and other experts say the only way to avoid that fate and keep the city dry is to follow the lead of the Dutch and build moveable modern dykes. Either that or retreat from the shoreline.

The city got a glimpse of such destructiveness with the December nor'easter of 1992, when massive flooding shut down the PATH train and the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Again, in the summer of 2007, a flash storm dumped so much rain so quickly that the subways were paralyzed. Afterward, the MTA removed 16,000 pounds of debris from its tracks and spent weeks repairing electrical equipment.

For the rest of the story,  maps and other images showing New York's vulnerability to extreme storms in an age of climate change, go to wnyc.org.

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