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New York At Risk Of Hurricane, Storm Surges

March 16, 2009

Scientists warn New York City could be at risk to damage from hurricanes and storm surges because they predict global warming could lift sea levels twice as fast as global rates.

“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,” said Jianjun Yin, a climate modeler at Florida State University.

The new study predicts a slowdown in Atlantic Ocean currents that will cause a major change in sea levels along the US northeast coast.

Manhattan’s Wall Street, barely three feet above sea level, for example, will find itself underwater more often as the 21st century unfolds, said the study.

The findings were published online Sunday in Nature Geoscience.

The rising seas could also submerge low-lying land in and around the city, erode beaches, and hurt estuaries, some of the most diversely populated ecosystems.

Climate scientists say higher temperatures due to heat-trapping emissions from tailpipes, smokestacks, and the burning of forests have the potential to raise sea levels by melting land ice and expanding water in the ocean.

The U.S. Northeast’s coast is especially vulnerable as global warming slows the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, which is a natural conveyor belt that carries warm upper waters to northern latitudes and returns colder waters southward.

In 2007, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that expanding ocean water driven by climate change will drive up sea levels, on average, anywhere from seven to 23 inches by 2100.

Rising water levels will destroy several island nations from the map, and is likely to cause devastation in Asian and African deltas home to tens of millions of people.

During the study, the researchers analyzed the projections of nearly a dozen state-of-the art climate change models, under three different greenhouse gas scenarios.

They noted sea levels in the North Atlantic adjusted in all cases to the projected slowing of the Gulf Stream and its northward extension, the North Atlantic Current.

“This will lead to the rapid sea level rise on the Northeast coast of the United States,” Yin told AFP.

In 2007, a study released by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists said rising sea levels would cause once-in-a-century storms would occur on average every 10 years by 2100.

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