Flashback 1985: Gov’t Scientists Predicted NYC Would Resemble Daytona Beach

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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There’s a winter storm afoot, and places like New York City are expected to get hit with several inches of snow Thursday.

It’s hard to imagine that just 30 years ago, government scientists were predicting that global warming would make New York City resemble Daytona Beach, Florida — which does not get snow.

In 1985, the New York Times reported that ‘[f]ederal climate experts have suggested that within a century the greenhouse effect could turn New York City into something with the climate of Daytona Beach, Fla.”

“Beginning in a decade or two, scientists expect the warming of the atmosphere to melt the polar icecaps, raising the level of the seas, flooding coastal areas, eroding the shores and sending salt water far into fresh-water estuaries,” the Times reported. “Storm patterns will change, drying out some areas, swamping others and generally throwing agriculture into turmoil.”

Three decades later, and New York City does not remotely resemble Daytona Beach — even if some resident wished it did on winter days like this. On Thursday, New York City’s temperature stood at 28 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Weather Channel, while Daytona Beach was a balmy 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This winter, in fact, New York City experienced its coldest recorded temperature ever for Feb. 2nd just this year when thermometers in Central Park dipped below 7 degrees Fahrenheit — shattering a previous 65-year record for the coldest Feb. 2nd set in 1950.

It may be that Daytona Beach is becoming more like New York City, as Daytona did get a light dusting of snow in Jan. 2008 and again in Jan. 2010. Snow flurries were also reported in Daytona in 1989 and in 1977. Ok, so maybe not like New York City, which gets a lot more snow.

But federal scientists in the 1980s predicted that trace greenhouse gases, and not just carbon dioxide, were causing the world to warm rapidly, though at the time there was little to no evidence of rapid warming.

Since the Times report, however, temperature did climb, according to federal climate data. Global average surface temperatures climbed until 1998, but have since flattened and showed little to no warming trend since.

“In an October 1983 report, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the sea level could rise as much as 11 feet by the end of the next century – or as little as 2 feet,” the New York Times reported. “It settled on 5 to 7 feet as the likely range. The higher figure would put substantial pieces of Florida and Louisiana under the waves and flood parts of some coastal cities.”

“Even the lower figure would cut away chunks of shoreline. Experts estimate that a one-foot rise in the ocean could erode 100 to 1,000 feet of sand beach all along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts,” the Times reported.

Sea level rise, of course, has not been as dramatic as EPA predicted in 1983. According to the U.S. National Climate Assessment, global sea level rise from 1992 to 2010 was only 3.2 millimeters per year — meaning sea level only increased 0.19 feet over this period.

Extrapolate that out and sea level rise by 2100 will only be 1.18 feet above 1992 levels — far less than the 5 to 7 feet predicted by EPA in 1983.

(H/T Real Science)

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