Climate Change Threatens 10 Degree Rise, Submerged Cities

by | Jan 15, 2013

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A major federal report warns US average temperatures could rise as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050 if emissions continue to rise, while a separate assessment by a public utilities company projects climate change will put parts of Seattle underwater.

The third National Climate Assessment – which comes out every four years – said the average US temperature has increased by about 1.5 degrees F since 1895 with more than 80 percent of the rise occurring since 1980. The report, which is in draft form, said the most recent decade was the nation’s hottest on record and evidence of climate change abounds.

The report follows a separate announcement by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that 2012 was the warmest year on record in the contiguous United States (see graphic). The US Climate Extremes Index, which evaluates extremes in temperature and precipitation, indicated 2012 was the second most extreme year on record for the nation, NOAA said.

Climate change has already exacted an economic toll on a wide range of industries including farmers, utilities and the winter tourism sector. The USDA earlier this month declared drought natural disaster areas across 597 counties in 14 states. The $12.2 billion winter tourism industry in the US experienced an estimated $1 billion loss and up to 27,000 fewer jobs from 1999 to 2010 because of diminished snowfall patterns, according to a study released last month.

Meanwhile, rising waters caused by climate change are expected to swallow up shorelines in the Seattle area, according to a projection by Seattle Public Utilities. The utility mapped the local effects of global climate and projects that by 2050 higher shorelines will take over parts of Interbay, Georgetown, South Park, West Seattle, Golden Gardens and Harbor Island, reported the Seattle Times.

Other US states and cities with vulnerable shores, such as New York, have proposed a number of changes to protect the coastlines from future superstorms. A draft report prepared by the NYS 2100 commission suggests the state consider storm surge barriers to protect New York Harbor and recommends adding “green infrastructure” features to the state’s industrial shoreline.

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