Monday, September 14, 2009

Will NYC Be Flooded By 2080


After reading the following in The Wall Street Journal, I contacted the author, Robert Lee Hotz, concerning the suppositions behind New York City's plan to avert inundation by 2080.

[image from the movie "The Day After Tomorrow"]

NEW YORK -- When major ice sheets thaw, they release enough fresh water to disrupt ocean currents world-wide and make the planet wobble with the uneven weight of so much meltwater on the move. Studying these effects more closely, scientists are discovering local variations in rising sea levels -- and some signs pointing to higher seas around metropolitan New York.

Sea level may rise faster near New York than at most other densely populated ports due to local effects of gravity, water density and ocean currents, according to four new forecasts of melting ice sheets. The forecasts are the work of international research teams that included the University of Toronto, the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., Florida State University and the University of Bristol in the U.K., among others.

Read more....

My note:

"Sea level is currently rising at 2.378 mm/year. At that rate, it will take 631 years for sea level to rise 1.5 meters. During that time hundreds of billions of people may have lived and died – the ultimate displacement."

The problem with extrapolating short-term variations in climate is the absurdity of the results. For example, the spike in temperatures in the 1990s has been followed by a general cooling in the 2000s. In the U.S., as measured by temperature extremes, the present decade is wholly unremarkable...
If New York City [or any other coastal urban area such as New Orleans] wants to protect itself against sea surges, it is wholly unnecessary to justify it by bad science or science fiction. In a world with sufficient problems, it is foolish to create additional problems... and solutions... that will cost billions or trillions of dollars and accomplish very little. The Netherlands have shown that living with high seas can be accomplished with relatively simple efforts. There is significant doubt that New York City will be faced with that problem.
His response:
You would be correct in your estimate if the rate of increase remains the same. And that is, of course, the point of all the research on greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. The rate of change is increasing. How quickly it is changing is the argument. With sea level projections, we do know that sea level has risen alreday about one foot during the 20th Century in response to a combination of rising temperatures and, in some areas, land subsidence. To predict the future, the problem is complex because human behavior is the key variable in a range of best-case/worst-case scenarios. All these sea level rise figures are estimates and they all encompass a range of possibilities depending in part on which of the many greenhouse gas emissions scenarios we do or do not embrace.

In the direst scenario, in which both the Greenland ice sheets and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet completely melt, the global sea level could rise 32 feet or more over several centuries. Obviously that's the most extreme possibility and there's no way to know whether it is at all credible or just plain scare-mongering. New York planners have adopted a much more conservative set of parameters based on the best scientific advice they could get. Earlier this year, the city-appointed New York Panel on Climate Change released its formal prediction of how temperature, precipitation and sea level for the metropolitan area might change over the coming century. You can read that report and others by New York's planners on the local climate change and what they are doing about it at:

You mention that the Netherlands lives with high seas "with relatively simple efforts." Not so simple, really. To prevent storm surge flooding, the Netherlands has built 1,500 miles of dikes, 120 miles of reinforced sea dunes, 3,748 miles of drainage canals, sea walls and flood control dams. To name just one part of the system, the Oosterschelde storm surge barrier is 5 1/2 miles long and is composed of 65 moveable piers that each measure up to 100 feet high and weigh 8,000 tons. It cost about $3.2 billion and it took 19 years to build.

Rising sea levels are extremely likely. GCM-based
projections for mean annual sea level rise in New
York City are:

• 2 – 5 inches by the 2020s
• 7 – 12 inches by the 2050s
• 12 – 23 inches by the 2080s

Because GCMs do not capture all of the processes
which may contribute to sea level rise, an alternative
method that incorporates observed and longer-term
historical ice-melt rates is also included. This “rapid
ice-melt” approach suggests sea level could rise by
approximately 41 to 55 inches by the 2080s.
My last response:
Your arguments are persuasive; however, the present data do not seem to justify the projections of increasing ice melt. While there has been some recent reduction of the northern hemisphere ice sheet [with a possible reversal in the last few years], the southern hemisphere has had a slightly opposite trend.

You are correct that predicting the future is complex, especially when the analysis of present data is so difficult. I correspond ... with two well-known authors of climate information on the internet: Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr., climatologist; and Anthony Watts, meteorologist. Anthony tends to be a little dramatic in his arguments, but does back them up with data; Roger is more restrained and accepts that humans do influence regional climates, but primarily from land use changes, not by fractionally increasing CO2 in the atmosphere.
Regardless, I do not expect to alter your views regarding climate change. I do agree that there are actions we can take to lessen the impact on our climate and general environment. NYC plans to address worst-case scenarios are fine. Even spending $3.2 billion over 2 decades would be minuscule compared with costs of the city being inundated with a sudden surge of water from a hurricane... however remote the possibility. Their plans, however well intended, are based on some very shaky "science"... actually some very shaky computer modeling. Therefore, the fact that they have such plans adds no credibility to the projections.

My concern is that the Federal government is pushing forward with policies and programs that will have disastrous results for our economy in the name of preventing naturally-occurring changes to our climate. Energy independence from politically unstable or hostile sources is a worthwhile effort; restricting that effort in a narrow band of alternatives based on scare tactics is the height of stupidity. It is as if a person becomes ill and his temperature rises to 103° temporarily. Using projections from temperature trends would indicate rapid rises to 110° and beyond. Simplistic thinking about climate variation is more of a danger to us than real climate variations. Wet suits will not be the NYC fashion rage of 2080.
The University of Illinois has a site that tracks polar ice in square miles... north and south poles. It does show a modest decline in ice over the past 40 years, including a recent decline which, in large part, NASA attributed to unusual wind conditions in the arctic and which has started to reverse.

It is all well and good for NYC to have solid infrastructure plans and the link to the .pdf documents provided by Mr. Hotz [which I greatly appreciate] shows that NYC has done a significant amount of planning and implementation to manage an urban area that supports 8.5 million people.

It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that it is deemed necessary by NYC to justify such efforts with alarming projections similar to Al Gore's.

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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
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Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)