Reader John Smith writes in with this interesting photo essay.
Dear Anthony —
Back in November 2010 you did a post ( Freaking out about NYC sea level rise is easy to do when you don’t pay attention to history) about sea level rise and its effects on Manhattan Island. The post started with this picture from an Armageddon Week special on the History Channel, showing what lower Manhattan would supposedly look like after one hundred feet or so of sea level rise.
You then included historical information about Manhattan, showing how, despite some sea level rise over the centuries, the dry land of Manhattan Island had actually increased greatly, due to ongoing landfill by the inhabitants.
Your readers may be interested to know that the process of landfill in lower Manhattan continues to this day. This has nothing to do with global warming or sea level rise. The latest project, taking place literally in the shadow of the new One World Trade Center, involves construction of a riverside park in the very spot where the debris from the old World Trade Center was loaded onto barges to be shipped away. Lots of new soil is arriving to serve as a home to the plants and trees to follow.
This first picture was taken along the bike path approximately 2500 feet North of the World Trade Center construction site, looking West. The large piles of soil have been trucked in over the last several weeks. Behind the soil is the Hudson River, and the tall buildings in the background are in Jersey City, New Jersey.
In this second picture we are looking Southwest from the same spot. These piles are mostly gravel, presumably for subsoil. The large plastic bags are what the soil arrives in. There looks to be plenty of landfill here to raise the level of the area under construction by at least several inches.
Looking due South from the same spot along the bike path, the tall building in the center with cranes on top is the new One World Trade Center under construction. It is currently at about 65 stories, a little over half of its final height. Since the building will be 1776 feet high, and this spot is about 2500 feet away and just West of due North, this spot will be in the shadow of the new building between about 11 AM and 12 AM during much of the colder half of the year. The building immediately next to the One World Trade Center construction is Seven World Trade Center, also visible at the upper left of your History Channel picture.
Finally, another part of the construction project involves raising the sea wall that forms the shore line of Manhattan. As far as I can tell, this part of the project has nothing to do with protecting Manhattan against sea level rise, but rather is an esthetic matter to make the sea wall in the Tribeca segment of the park transition smoothly to the sea wall surrounding the Battery Park City neighborhood immediately to its South. The Battery Park City wall had been built several feet higher, so previously there was a large step up where one ended and the other began. This last picture is taken from the North side of Battery Park City (less than 1500 feet from One World Trade Center), looking East back to the sea wall of the island just North of Battery Park City. This is actually the spot where the debris from the old WTC was loaded onto barges some nine and a half years ago. The lower, dark portion of the wall pre-existed, and the upper, white portion was built approximately one to two years ago.
This should provide plenty of protection against any potential sea level rise for the next century or two!
I’ve added this Google Earth map to help readers locate the place – Jim Hansen’s office is further North near the West Side Highway. Click image to enlarge.