Climate Adaptation Planning in New York City

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Climate Adaptation Planning in New York City

University of Helsinki November26, 2014 David C. Major, Ph.D.

Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability

(2013) Climate Change and a Global City:

The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (2001)


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Outline of Presentaton


Source: NPCC, 2010

Part 1: NYC Background

Part 2: Science and Planning Part 3: Hurricane Sandy

Part 4: Summary


Part 1: New York City



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New York City Introduction


Source: NPCC, 2010

Science and government: Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Dr.

Cynthia Rosenzweig

NPCC - Climate Change Adaptation in New York City:

Building a Risk Management Response (2010)

Academic and Research Institutions: Columbia University; NASA

Goddard Institute for Space Studies; New York University; City

University of New York; and many others in planning, science and



Latitude: 40°42′51″ N; Longitude: 74°00′21″ W Helsinki: 60.1708° N, 24.9375° E

Elevation: sea level to 410 ft (125 m) (Todt Hill, Staten Island)

Population (July 2013 estimate) : 8.4 million Helsinki: 616,000 (2012)

Average weekday daily subway ridership (2013): 5.5 million

Population of Finland (2012): 5.4 million

New York City Facts


NYC Climate Impacts

• Sea level rise

• Storm surge

• Inland flooding

• Heat waves

• Drought and floods in upland water areas

• Winds

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Key New York City Reports

• 1996: The Baked Apple? Metropolitan New York in the Greenhouse. New York Academy of Sciences.

• 2001: Metro East Coast. Part of a U.S. national study. This report brought the problem into the view of participating NYC


• 2007: MTA Storm Report. Appendix on Climate Change

• 2008: DEP, Climate Change Program Assessment and Action Plan Report. Climate scenarios for the city and region, an innovative City/University/Consulting panel, and an agency program.

• 2010: New York City Panel on Climate Change.

2013: New York City Office of the Mayor, PlaNYC: A Stronger More Resilient New York.

• 2014 (forthcoming): NPCC updated scenarios


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Outline Map of New York City and Region

New York City Geography


Part 2: Science and



Adaptation Assessment Guidelines

1. Identify current and future climate hazards

2. Conduct inventory of

infrastructure and assets and begin to identify vulnerabilities 3. Characterize risk

4. Develop initial list of strategies 5. Identify opportunities for


6. Link strategies to rehabilitation and replacement cycles

7. Prepare and implement Adaptation Plans

8. Monitor and reassess



Characterize Risk: Theory

Red: Risks for which adaptation strategies should be developed

Orrange: Risks for which adaptation strategies may need to be developed or for which further information is needed Yellow: Risks for which impacts should be monitored but which may not need actions at this time


Characterize Risks: Practice

The Interaction of Theory and Practice


Climate Scenario Methods

• Regional climate projections are based on 16 GCMs (7 GCMs for sea level) and 3 emissions scenarios (NPCC 2010)

– Model output for the single gridbox covering New York City is used

• Future changes are presented for time slices relative to the 1971 – 2000 baseline period (2000 – 2004 for sea level)

– Time slices are 30 year periods (10 for sea level) centered around a given decade, for example, the 2050s is 2040 – 2069.

• Model-based probability

– The combination of GCMs and emissions scenarios produce 48 outputs for temperature and precipitation (21 for SLR)

– For each scenario time period and variable, the results constitute a model-based probability function

Updated scenarios based on AR5 GCMs and emissions scenarios due late 2014

Frequency distribution of model based temperature and precipitation changes for the 2050s relative to the 1971-2000 base period.


Temperature and Precipitation

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High Impact Sea Level Rise Scenarios

Sea level rise projections for New York City for the 2080s

Two sea level rise scenarios were developed for New York City (NPCC 2010).

1) GCM model-based method used for sea level rise similar to what was done for temperature and precipitation. These projections include global and local components.

2) “Rapid Ice-melt scenario” was developed to account for the possibility that future changes in

polar ice sheets are not captured by the GCMs and may accelerate melting beyond currently

projected levels.


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NPCC Approach

Climate change adaptation as a risk management issue

Flexible Adaptation Pathways as the response


Adaptation Decisions

• Decision makers are using climate scenarios developed for New York City

– Undertaking Sewer and Wastewater treatment study to evaluate impacts of sea level rise and storm surge

– Modeling impacts of climate change on New York’s water supply using scenarios

– Moving pumps at the Rockaway Wastewater Treatment Plant to 14 feet above sea level from 25 feet below

– Installing new subway gratings at street level

– Examining many other adaptation possibilities

Ashokan Reservoir, a component of the New York City Water Supply System

WPCP in Bronx, New York

Raised subway grating


Climate Scenarios and Watershed Models


Damages and Cost Estimates 1

• Estimates of damages from sea level rise are available for some storms and some sectors

• The costs of sea level rise, to the extent they can be prevented, are the benefits from adaptation measures

• Next two slides: damages affecting metro

NY transportation for (estimated) 100-year

storm with SLR of 2 and 4 feet (0.6 and 1.2

m); case study by Jacob et al., 2011.


Red 100-y flood in 2000 (surge of ~ 8ft).

Yel 100-y flood in 2040s, with +2ft SLR Grn 100-y flood in 2080s, with +4ft SLR

S1 S2 S3

ClimAID Transportation Case Study ClimAID Transportation Case Study


TIELEM = Time Integrated Economic Losses for the Entire Metropolitan Region

16 $84 68

S3(4-foot rise in sea level) 2080s

$70 13


S2(2-foot rise in sea level) 2040s

$58 10

S1, current sea



Total Loss ($ billion) Physical

Damage ($

billion) TIELEM

($ billion) Scenario

Combined economic and physical-damage Losses for the New York City Metropolitan region for a 100-year storm surge, for three sea level rise scenarios (2010 assets and

2010-dollar valuation).

Increased Costs from Storm Surge with Sea Level Rise


Damages and Cost Estimates 2

• For regional insured property damages only: more than ½ billion US $2013/year with economic growth and SLR (1/3 due to SLR) (Major et al., 2014)

• First costs of six adaptation strategies ranging from building code changes to

surge barriers: between $11.6 and $23.8 bn

$US 2012 (Aerts et al., 2013)

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“Soft” Infrastructure: Architects’ Ideas for New York Harbor

• Produce energy,

moderate storm surge, reduce erosion

• Offshore windmills

• Oyster beds

• Artificial islands

• Subway car reefs

• Offshore piers

• New wetlands

• Piers and slips Reference: Rising Currents exhibit, Museum of Modern Art, NY

7 c

7 c


Possible Hard Infrastructure: Large Tidal Barrier, the Narrows, New York Harbor

• One of 3 proposed barriers

• Alternative is single barrier further out

• Environmental and other impacts not studied

• The question of scheduling:

probably not needed in the next decades




Part 3: Hurricane Sandy


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“Never waste a serious crisis”

(Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago)


Why Hurricanes are a Threat to NYC


Hurricane Sandy: Characteristics

• Exceptionally wide storm (largest Atlantic hurricane, winds spanning 1,100 miles

(1800 km)

• New Jersey landfall Oct. 29, 2012 with hurricane-force gusting winds as a post- tropical cyclone

• Blocked from typical northeastern path by a powerful winter snowstorm to the north

• Landfall at high tide

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Hurricane Sandy: Characteristics

• Sandy had the highest recorded storm surge at the Battery (southern tip of

Manhattan): 13.88 ft (4.23m) above MLLW;

next highest Hurricane Donna (1960) 10.0 ft (3.05 m)

• US damages (preliminary) $71 Billion

• NY Metro region damages could reach $40-

$50 Billion (preliminary)


Other Damaging Storms

• Nor’easters. These are extra-tropical

cyclones (usually November-March) that can last for days and for that reason can be more damaging than hurricanes, although surges are usually lower. Named after the direction from which the wind comes.

• Very intense rainfall events. These can cause serious interior flooding.

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Brooklyn Battery Tunnel

Designed before WWII, opened 1950; longest continuous underwater tunnel in North


Out of commission for several weeks

No flood gates.


South Ferry Subway Station

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New (replacement) station opened


Cost $US 545 million

Thought to be at risk from the (old) 100 year flood;.

Repairs to cost $US

600 million


Metro North Railroad, the New York City Subway, Long Island Rail Road First-rate

prepositioning of rolling stock Essentially no damage to rolling stock Result of 10 years of

discussion and experience

East of Hudson Rail Pre-positioning


West of Hudson: Failure

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New Jersey Transit placed rolling stock in a yard

between two rivers flowing into Newark Bay that had not previously flooded

Management failed to track publically available

information on Sandy, and even input wrong direction for Sandy in flood model, resulting in much too low estimates

Result: $US 100 million in damages to rolling stock New plans for $500US in new yards and flood


New Jersey behind New York in

climate adaptation analysis


Arverne by the Sea

Located on Rockaway Peninsula 1000 units of middle income


Entire project area raised 5 ft, along with very large drains and other flood protections

Result: essentially no damage while rest of Rockaways


Private activity with government



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Pure Luck: The Whitney

• Whitney Museum is now building a new

home near the Hudson

• Originally designed on the basis of standard engineering procedures

• At the time of Sandy, only the basement

shell finished—it flooded with 26 ft (8 m) of water.

• If Sandy had occurred a year later, $millions of damage to art

The current building—

uptown on Madison Ave.


The Revised Whitney design

• No art in the basement!

• Flood wall in the back of the building

• Temporary flood walls

designed by specialist German

firm for front and sides, to be placed when needed in firm footings on the site. Height is 16 ft (5 m)

• Lesson: update and replace engineering



Post-Sandy: The BIG U Project

• The first comprehensive protection project

• 10-mile U shape from

W. 57th Street around the Battery to E. 42nd Street

• Initial funding for Lower East Side from U.S. H.U.D. Sandy funds of $335 million US

• Total cost estimated in the billions US$

• Many amenities included

• Final design to be determined

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Part 4: Summary


Lessons from Sandy: Summary

• Survey all old infrastructure for retrofitting

• Review designs for current infrastructure proposals: no more South Ferries

• Encourage private sector adaptations

• Continue excellent management adaptations

• Insure good science-based decision-making in all agencies

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Lessons from Sandy: Summary 2

• New programs include proposed buy-outs of endangered beach properties in New York

• Proactive planning can significantly reduce

damages from future large storms


The current situation in NYC

• Wide understanding of climate change, vulnerabilities, impacts and the need for adaptation; continuing challenges

• Strong city government efforts underway

• Many private efforts also underway

• Flood walls, soft infrastructure, operational changes, evacuation plans may suffice to

provide reasonably successful adaptation to about 2050

• In the longer term, “Dutch” solutions may be necessary

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