New NASA tool shows effects of melting glaciers on cities
- Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have developed an open-access online tool that can predict how precise points around the globe may be affected by rising sea levels, as reported by the BBC.
- In an accompanying study that was published in Science Advances, NASA scientists discovered that different cities are more or less vulnerable to sea level rise depending on which ice sheets melt — which is affected by factors like changing gravity, expanding land masses and the Earth's natural tilt and wobble. London is more at risk if the western Greenland ice sheet melts, while New York is more susceptible to flooding if the northern Greenland ice sheet melts.
- Erik Ivins, one of the authors of the study, told the BBC that cities need to be "thinking about 100 years in the future and they want to assess risk."
This tool from NASA adds to the arsenal of resources that city planners and policymakers can use when developing resiliency plans. As climate change continues to make intense weather a more common occurrence, cities have to start planning on longer, more complex timelines to make sure their infrastructure and critical operations are resilient.
The U.S. is no stranger to these resiliency plans. And while national and regional plans are important, truly local planning is critical, too. Every city has unique circumstances that will determine what challenges it will face as the climate continues to change. Recently San Francisco outlined a comprehensive flood resiliency strategy to prepare the city for the next 15 years of "rainy seasons." Norfolk, VA already has a "flooding awareness and mitigation" strategy in place. Developing local plans is a critical step that cities need to take to protect their residents and economies.
U.S. cities have seen the consequences of not having a dedicated strategy in place, especially for "over-the-top" environmental circumstances that we hope would never happen — but do. Following this year's hurricane season, cities in Texas and and elsewhere in the U.S. and Caribbean may face "years" of cleanup from devastating storms. Cities must look at Houston, Miami and other affected areas as case studies for what happened, and what could have been prevented.
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