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Will Lower Manhattan become Part of the Ocean? by City Tech Blogger Randell J. Clyburn

The biggest threat that will face my region, New York City, is the ever-rising sea level. According to experts, New York City experienced a sea level rise of about a foot in 1900, and increased nine inches more by 1950. Scientists predict that the sea level may rise to around 18-50 inches higher than where it is today by the year 2100. In comparison, the lowest point of lower Manhattan is about 7 feet  above the sea level,  and the highest point is 13 feet above sea level. If current predictions are to be believed, most of the coastal areas of lower Manhattan will be flooded by 2050 and by the year 2100 almost all of lower Manhattan will  be underwater as well.

One of the larger contributors to the rising sea level is the slowdown of the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream is part of a large system of currents that takes water away from our shores and circulates the world based on how hot and warm the water is. The Gulf Stream takes away the warm water from our shores and places  it up north, where it meets with the colder, denser water from the Arctic. the Arctic water then sinks under the warm water and flows to the south. The problem comes with how greenhouse gasses are emitting more heat to the Earth, causing the glaciers to melt and add fresh water to the oceans.  This disrupts the Gulf Stream since the cold freshwater will mix with the cold saltwater, thus making the saltwater less dense and causing the Gulf Stream to move more slowly and pull less water. This leads to more warm water being left on our shores since the Gulf Stream is pulling the warm water that’s already there more slowly, thereby  depositing more water at the shore  and leading to a rise in the sea level.





Another large contributor to the rising sea level is land sinking. Land sinking is when the land starts to sink more into the ocean thanks to three major actions. One of these actions is our mass usage of water that  comes from underground, leaving the land to sink where the water was previously. Another reason is that our wetlands are drying up, causing these places to lose their density and start to sink. Finally, our development of heavy edifices and large roads in places that have a high concentration of people is causing the land under these places to push down toward the sea in retaliation. All of this causes the land to lower its overall height in comparison to the sea level, which in turn causes the sea to encroach on the land and erode more landmass from the coastal areas.

To combat this problem, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio created a $10-billion plan to protect Manhattan from rising sea levels. He plans to add countermeasures like elevating parks and building removable floor barriers to edifices, just in case storms and the rising sea starts to flood these places. He also wants to build about two more blocks of raised land in front of and is higher than the current coast. These artificial blocks will serve as a barrier for future storms and higher tides by stopping the water from getting in the city.  However, there is pushback and criticism for these plans, such as that of Klaus Jacob, a scientist who calls the plan  “unsustainable” and claims that it “will provide more liabilities for future generations”. Whatever the plan may be, one thing is certain:  sea level rise is a problem and if we don’t do anything about it, lower Manhattan will become part of the ocean.


Works Cited


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