New York City summers are disgusting: the city smells like stale urine, the subway stations turn into saunas, and all the elegant New Yorkers transform into perspiring troglodytes. And just when you thought it couldn't get any more gross, a report from city officials due out today insists that the hot mess is just beginning — and that Alabama-level summers are on the way to the Big Apple. "Over the next 40 years, the number of sweltering summer days in New York City could double or even triple, making it as hot in 2050 as Birmingham, Alabama, is now," Reuters reported ahead of the report, citing information from the city's Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR). Right now, by the way, Birmingham has a high of 93°F. New York City's forecast is a bit cooler today with a high of 80°F.
But back to that messy forecast for a few decades from now. Here's the SIRR's real look ahead — with that arrow pointing to the number of days over 90°F per year... and that's a lot of days:
So: There will be heat waves, more of them, and they'll last longer. and those heat waves will last longer. "Some of the city's underground infrastructure could become too hot, 'like being in an oven beneath the street,'" Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway told reporters on Monday. Great, just great.
The SIRR report, the result of months of research, wasn't just created to get people to invest in summer shares in the Hamptons, of course — it's meant to study climate change, the repercussions of Hurricane Sandy, and whether or not New York City is prepared for extreme weather. Scientists agreed after Sandy and they agree now that oceans are getting warmer. And, simply put, warmer water means longer hurricane seasons. And longer hurricane seasons increase the chances of more storms, and more storms mean an increased chance of a storm like Sandy crawling up the East Coast and pummeling a major city. And it's not just New York City — you need only look at these urban coastline maps based on U.S.G.S. and N.O.A.A. data to start thinking about the long-term vanishing point.
But what does the climate-change creep mean for New York City? Well, the SIRR research doesn't look so good. City sea levels are expected to rise by almost two feet in 2050, meaning more people will be at risk from a major storm and its coastal surges. Currently, 398,000 people are estimated to be living in a flood plain, and by 2050 that number — boosted by rising sea levels — is expected to be around 800,000, a massive jump.
There's no good news for Brooklyn, eiether. According to new FEMA advisory maps released alongside the report, "the most significant increase in flood-prone properties occurred in Brooklyn, where 25,800 structures are now considered at risk, up 253 percent," The New York Times reported. Being "at risk" isn't just a hypothetical fear, though. Being "at risk" could, as The Times points out, dictate hikes in flood-insurance rates.
Mayor Bloomberg will hold a press briefing today to explain city preparations for extreme weather.