Coastal New York 2050 Forecast

Hi everyone, this is Dr. Emily Schoerning with AR, and I’ve got your 2050 climate forecast for coastal New York, including New York City and Long Island.  In my last video I shared data to help us visualize the complex patterns that are projected to result in a real abundance of interesting microclimates for inland New York.  For this coastal part of the state, it’s a totally different story.  The seasonality, the summer and winter, I can give you a pretty straightforward look at these projected climate patterns.  But the most important information to take away from this video relates to sea level rise.

            First, let’s do a little poke at the projected climate.  Your frost-free season is projected to increase by 4 weeks.  The spring will come about 2 weeks earlier, the fall will come about 2 weeks later.  Big shift in seasonality.  Let’s look at the winter, now.  With this shortened projected frost season, we probably expect a change in plant hardiness zone. (HARDI)

Right now you’re in plant hardiness zone 7, and you’re projected to shift to an 8 over most of the region.  Let’s do a close look at where that shift is projected.  Please remember that this projection is with the lower-emissions scenario, which I still think is the most likely outcome.  If we don’t reduce emissions, if we continue on our current path, Manhattan will sit squarely in zone 9, which is Charleston’s current zone.  I don’t think that’s the future we want, and we can make changes to avoid that future. 

            Let’s check out how the summer will change, under that most likely, lower emissions scenario.  (HEAT)  Right now, you get a little more than a month, maybe 45 days a year over 86F in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens, more like 30 days over the rest of the area, bit cooler towards the tip of Long Island.  That’s anticipated to change very substantially I’m afraid, you can see here.  You should expect about twice as many days over 86, instead of 45, 30, 15, you’re looking at 90, 60, 30.  So that’s a substantially increased power burden, those days over 86 are days many people would feel more comfortable with air conditioning. 

If we don’t reduce emissions, the hot season length is projected to increase further, but that’s not the only reason to work to meet our country’s emissions goals.  If you’re in coastal New York, here New York City and on Long Island, it’s absolutely critical to fight for reduced emissions, because reduced emissions help to keep down our projected sea level rise.  Let’s check that out now.

In a second we’re going to go to NOAA’s sea level rise viewer.  We’re going to look at 1 and 2 feet of sea level rise, which are not unreasonable by 2050.  Right now if you look for sea level rise in New York, you see a lot of this stupid image, I want to show this to you and get it out of the way.

When we consider New York City and climate change, you should not take pictures like these seriously.  They’re silly, why would you expect to see 8 meters of sea level rise on top of the modern day skyline?  Those pictures give a person the sense that these changes will be immediate.  What we should be aware of and concerned about is the slow creep, making sure we notice the slow upward creep of the water.  And as we do that, we need to always consider the fact that in this city, there’s literally a lot going on beneath the surface that will be impacted by sea level rise well before you see the water creep over onto the sidewalks.  And that the more the sea level rises, the more dramatic and damaging storm surge and other weather events will become.

So here we are, let’s get into the NOAA tool.  You can see there’s been pretty smart building patterns along the New York coastline here along the continent, very little direct inundation will be occurring with 1-2 feet of sea level rise.  But now let’s look at the rest of the coastal area.  Many of the marshy area, these reserved areas that you’re seeing, will become outright wet areas, and I think that as you look at Manhattan, here, we can see that some of these marshy areas continue well inland in the future.  And that helps us start to understand a big problem that may not be apparent to people who aren’t familiar with New York City, which is that this is a city with crucial underground infrastructure.  The more the sea level rises, the more we have a problem where underground infrastructure is below sea level.  And water, it’s very powerful.  It finds its level, water gets where it wants to go.  Already in New York City we are seeing the subways flood very dramatically during major weather events.  Scary situations there, imagine being trapped underground with the water rising. 

And let’s look over here at Long Island.  This is very sad to see, we can see that there’s substantial housing stock on the southern shore that will be looking at direct inundation by 2050.  And we should remember that this map is just the mean higher high water mark, so if there were a serious storm, we would expect big water damage to a lot of homes on this shore. 

Between sea level rise and extreme weather events, urbanized, coastal New York is dealing with very serious infrastructure challenges.  And when we have to look at this level of challenge straight in the eye, it’s very scary.  There’s a very natural impulse to look away.  But we can’t look away.  This future is locked and loaded, this is the best reasonable scenario I’m presenting you.  And I assure you, I would love it if I am proved wrong, and none of these things come to pass. 

When we deal with a scary reality like this, one way we can find our way through is to look deep into ourselves.  Into our values, our origins, our strengths.  And I think we don’t have to look too far into New York City’s origins to find some hope.  This was a Dutch colony, the Dutch built here because it felt familiar, right?  It felt enough like home to become home.  And the Dutch, the Netherlands, they are universally acknowledged as the masters of water. 

In order to save this region in its current form, and let’s get real here.  This is a world city.  This massive urban area, this is not something you can move or subdivide or you can all go live on cute microfarms upstate, or that any sizable majority of you would want to do that!  This massive urban area is important to the world, and saving it in its current form is important.  To do that, we would need an engineering project on a massive scale.  As we look up and down the east coast, this area is where probably the biggest seawall project is the most likely to need to go.  This is the place that can afford it, and this is the place that really needs it.

A lot of these videos, I reach out to people like me, who love quiet places and growing things, and I know we all have a big job to do in terms of getting our hands in the dirt.  But the call to action here, it’s different.  This is a call to advocacy; to design and to build.  To use the wealth and power of this area to push for lower emissions from every side- politics, technology, and implementation.  It is our future, the future in our lives, that we are fighting for, and the time to protect our best 2050 future is now.    

But, let’s wrap this up.  Coastal New York is looking at a significant warm-up, summers feeling about twice as long, milder winters, much less snow.  There will be more extreme weather, the storms will get worse as time goes on.  But what you really want to look at is the sea.  Sea level rise is a major, direct, and immediate threat to New York City.  There are a lot of places underground, today, where they already need to run pumps to keep the water out.  And those pumps are a band-aid.  At some point, they won’t be enough.  But there is a real solution, not a band-aid, and this area can reach towards its roots to find that solution.  This work isn’t easy, but it could be done.  There is a good future out there.  We gotta work for it.

  This is Dr. Schoerning with AR, signing out.  Please like and subscribe, help get the message out there.  There is hope.  We can prepare for what’s coming.  Let’s get ready.