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How will climate change affect Philadelphia? (Spoiler: It’s already here.)
Philly

How will climate change affect Philadelphia? (Spoiler: It’s already here.)

From an extensive heatwave to more frequent, intense tropical storms like Isaias. Here’s a look at how you can expect climate change to manifest in the city of brotherly love.

Tropical storm Isaias (who can keep up with these names?) ravaged through the region just last week, leaving many areas of the city flooded and thousands without power. 

Local favorite John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is temporarily closed due to roads, refuge trails and infrastructure were significantly damaged due to the storm.

On Tuesday 4th, the  Schuylkill River crested at almost 13.5 feet, 7 feet above normal. The Fairmount Water Works experienced severe damage, with offices and lab, equipment, storage areas, materials, files, and personal belongings, decimated. 

Think of those clips as our trailer for our future with climate change.

So, why was Isaias SO bad?

Basically, warmer temperatures mean more heat energy is available to fuel tropical storms.

One of many storms brewing…

Isaias and tropical storm Fay combined dumped almost 30% of the city’s rainfall in two days since the year began.

And intense storms are just the beginning.

Our region has felt some intense and erratic weather, another symptom of climate change.

The changes in weather are viscerally felt, In July, a multi-day heatwave suffocated the city with the hottest day of 2020 and our hottest July since 1871.

You’ve probably received one of those ominous “excessive heat” or “flood emergency” alerts, but unfortunately, we’ll be seeing these communications frequently with climate change.

Urban centers like Philly are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Here are two major ways we’ll feel those changes.  

How Philadelphia will be affected by Climate Change

It’s going to get even wetter.

Over the past century, the sea level has risen by almost one foot around Philadelphia, PA.

To make matters worse storm surges, sea-level rise, and increase precipitation are all projected to increase in the Northeastern region of the country as the world warms, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment. There’s been a more than 70% increase in rainfall measured in the Northeast between 1958 and 2012 during storm events, more than any other region in the U.S.

Due to warmer temperatures, there will be more rain and less snow.

This additional rainwater will result in more intense flooding in our city’s areas that aren’t as high above sea level and the areas close to waterways, This can subsequently damage our city’s infrastructure.

Homes, businesses, and your favorite spots along the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers are all subject to being wiped off the map. But perhaps most notorious is the potential loss of the PHL International Airport by 2100.

Mitigating stormwater flooding and implementing more comprehensive green stormwater infrastructure will become even more of a necessity to the city in the coming years.

And hotter at the same time

As global temperatures rise, the Northeastern region of the country can expect to feel about a 3.6-degree Fahrenheit temperature increase on an average day (the largest temperature increase in the contiguous U.S by 2035).

In Philly, we can expect to feel that heat both in summers and winters.

The frequency of days with temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit is projected to increase greatly. Get used to heat waves and more “mosquito-friendly” days.

And our snowy winters?

The future coldest winters will feel more like the warmest ones from years past. Winters are projected to warm at a rate three times faster than summers, We’ll see less picturesque snowfalls coating the city and more unsightly slush.

This has profound implications for not only the ecosystems that sustain us but human health.

During the summers, the hot air traps pollutants and particulates in the lower atmosphere, creating domes of stagnant, polluted air further degrading the quality of air inhaled by residents.

Chart: Beat the Heat Hunting Park plan

These are just a handful of ways climate change will impact the way of life here in Philly.

It’s important to remember who these effects will impacts the most; the city’s poorer and minority residents, and equally important to urge city officials to keep this group in the forefront of their strategic climate plans.  

There’s one interesting note about Philly’s warming position. Relative to other major cities, Philly won’t be as devastated by climate change ultimately. This gives Philly the opportunity to act as a place of refuge to those displaced by climate change, changing the demographics and density of the city.

Featured photo: Four Mills Barn during the flooding on Facebook Wissahickon Trails.

 

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Jada Ackley
Jada is a senior Environmental Studies major at Temple University with a minor in City and Regional Planning. Currently Jada is an Editorial Intern at Green Philly. Her Interests includes enjoying nature and advocating for sustainability! View all posts by Jada Ackley

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