NASA News & Feature Releases

Researchers Take New York City's Temperature

Researchers today announced key results of a two-year research effort to assess the vulnerability of New York City to climate change. Seven critical sectors addressed in this study are coasts, wetlands, infrastructure, water supply, public health, energy and institutional decision-making.

Drs. Cynthia Rosenzweig, Vivien Gornitz, Ellen Hartig, Richard Goldberg, and Reggie Blake of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, along with researchers from other institutions, present the results of the Metropolitan East Coast (MEC) at a conference held at Columbia University in New York City.

"Climate impacts in cities are multi-dimensional," said Rosenzweig, a Co-Leader of the MEC study. "Our goal is to provide critical information to assist the region's decision-makers to anticipate, prepare for and prevent the potentially serious impacts of climate events now and in the future."

Study results show that over the last 100 years the temperature has risen 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Scenarios from global climate modeling studies project additional warming for the New York Metropolitan Region throughout the 21st century, ranging from 4 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

The effects of this warming trend will not be uniform across all sectors. The most direct health effect likely to be associated with a warming and more variable climate is an increase in summer-season heat stress, particularly among the poor and elderly.

A warmer climate is also likely to raise the demand for electricity and cause increased stress to the electric utility systems. Recommendations to decision-makers include educating the population on energy efficiency.

Other study results involve the coastlines and the delicate wetland areas due to sea-level rise. The already rising sea level in the MEC region is projected to rise 4.3 to 11.7 inches over the next 20 years. This sea-level rise would lead to more storm damage and increased beach erosion. Higher sea levels and more damaging storm surges will impact fish and bird habitats in the wetland areas.

This study represents a unique collaborative effort that brings together key stakeholders, including state, regional, and local agencies, as well as environmental organizations, to address climate change and its impacts to ensure results were relevant and useful in all decision-making sectors. Stakeholders are institutions whose activities are and will be impacted by present and future climate variability and change and have a stake in being involved in research of potential impacts.

"A goal of the process has been to ensure that the results are relevant to the people that actually make the decisions that affect the city," said William Solecki, Co-Leader of the MEC Assessment and a geographer at Montclair State University, NJ.

The study of the Metropolitan East Coast (MEC) area is one of 16 regional components that contribute to the U.S. National Assessment: The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change, organized by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The goal of each regional assessment is to understand the impacts of climate change and variability on physical systems and human activities of a specific area of the United States. The Metro East Coast Assessment is the Regional Assessment that specifically addresses issues of climate change and cities. The National Science Foundation and Columbia University's Earth Institute provided major funding for the study.

The study area for the Metro East Coast Assessment covers the 31 counties of the New York City metropolitan region. The area consists of 13,000 square miles, with jurisdictions involving 1,600 cities, towns and villages in the three states of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The total regional population is 19.6 million, of which 7.3 live in New York City.

Other organizations participating in this study include: Columbia University's Earth Institute, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory and School of Public Health, Montclair State University, New York University and SUNY Stony Brook.

Related Links

Metropolitan East Coast

Draft National Assessment report

Media Contacts

Leslie McCarthy, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, N.Y., 212-678-5507,