NYC's Hot-Weather Profile Could Resemble Alabama's in 30 Years

A new report provides the background for Mayor Bloomberg's climate change adaptation plans.

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Lucas Jackson/Reuters

What does New York City have to fear from a warmer planet? A new report from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency makes some dire predictions: hotter summers, warmer winters, and water, water everywhere.

The report, which updates a 2009 study and is based on new data collected by the New York City Panel on Climate Change, has drastic environmental changes arriving as soon as the 2050s.

Mid-range projections for the middle decade of the 21st century would require extreme adjustments to life in the city's coastal regions. The report warns of:

  • An average temperature rise of 4 to 5.5 degrees
  • A sea level rise of 11 to 24 inches
  • A 5-10 percent increase in precipitation
  • An increase in the number of +90-degree days, from 18 to 39-52
  • A decrease in the number days below freezing, from 72 to 42-48
  • Eight percent of the city's coastline will be subject to regular tidal flooding, without storms

With a whole month of freezing temperatures gone, New York's snowy winters would be a thing of the past. The high-end estimates predict even more dire changes. By mid-century, the city's number of very hot days could triple, making its warm weather profile identical to that of Birmingham, Alabama's today.

Such changes would radically reshape the city's geography: nearly one million New Yorkers would be living in 100-year flood plains by the 2050s, with thousands more living in newly minted tidal pools.

These predictions aren't new, but the timeframe has changed. The 2009 report, for example, had placed this rate of sea level rise closer to the end of the 21st century. New estimates predict a foot of new sea level rise is likely within the next 30 years.

Administration officials who oversaw the study say the city's sea level rose a foot between 1900 and 2013, but that pace is now increasing.

Mayor Bloomberg is set to address long-term plans for adapting to climate change on Tuesday afternoon.

About the Author

  • Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.