Bobbing in the Big Apple?

Climate change just got a little closer to home.

We have heard a lot about potential displacements of millions in Bangladesh, or the disappearance of Tuvalu under the waves. But Manhattan?

A new study published today shows that shifting ocean currents due to human-induced climate change will raise sea levels in New York by an additional 36 centimeters by the end of the century.

That's on top of the 15 cm due to thermal expansion of the oceans in our warming world.

Then there's the impacts of melting ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, which scientists last week stated could double the IPCC predictions of only two years ago – to about a meter.

Let's not forget another study published in February showing that the northern hemisphere will be preferentially impacted by melting in Antarctica – adding another 30% of sea level rise in places like New York.

Doing the latest math, that could total more than 180 centimeters (close to six feet) of sea level rise in the Big Apple by the end of the century. This sea level thing is starting to add up.

Guess what? Many parts of Lower Manhattan are only 150 centimeters above sea level. Some of the most expensive real estate in the world could be under water in only 90 years. That ironically includes the Marriott Marquis Hotel where the notorious Heartland Institute held their climate deniers gathering last week.

I am sure that even if the ocean were up to their knees, such professional hucksters would find some novel way to spin how it had nothing to do with climate change.

Back in the real world, The Mayor of New York is taking these new findings very seriously.

“Climate change is real and could have serious consequences for New York if we don’t take action,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “We cannot wait until after our infrastructure has been compromised to begin to plan for the effects of climate change now.”

Bloomberg ordered urgent infrastructure investments now to deal with rising sea levels predicted by the scientific community.

These new findings also illustrate just how little we understand about how this planet works, and how insanely stupid it is to start turning knobs and pushing buttons in the absence of an owner’s manual.

Dr. Jianjun Yin of Florida State University published the latest study today in the respected journal Nature Geoscience.graph from Nature

He found that the titanic forces unleashed by climate change would alter ancient ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Current.

These two currents contribute to a deep ocean upwelling called the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), which has kept local sea levels around New York lower than they would otherwise be.

The AMOC also transports warm surface waters to the high northern latitudes, keeping Europe unusually warm given its proximity to the arctic circle.

Already, some studies have shown that the AMOC slowed by about 30% between 1957 and 2004, and it is expected to disappear further because of global warming.

This slowdown not only threatens the relatively balmy climate enjoyed in Northern Europe but will also eliminate the dynamic forces that keep the sea level lower along the US east coast.

"Some parts of lower Manhattan are only 1.5 meters [5 feet] above sea level," said Dr. Yin, a climate modeler at Florida State University. “Twenty centimeters [8 inches] of extra rise would pose a threat to this region."

The changes in ocean circulation will also bring increased risk of damage from hurricanes and winter storm surges, researchers say.

Increased sea levels and more intense storms are a nasty combination and will make the challenges of our new climate even more challenging to adapt to in densely populated areas like New York.

Buckle up those of you in the Big Apple. This climate change thing is getting more freaky all the time.

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