NASA researchers are investigating the potential impact of climate change on New York City using computer models to simulate future climates and sea level rise. Their studies, to date, forecast a 15 to 19 inch-increase in sea levels by the 2050s that could put the city at higher risk of flooding during storm surges.

"With sea level at these higher levels, flooding by major storms would inundate many low-lying neighborhoods and shut down the entire metropolitan transportation system with much greater frequency," said Vivien Gornitz, a climate scientist who is part of a team at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and Columbia University.

Gornitz, along with Cynthia Rosenzweig, another researcher on the team, say that higher sea levels put New York city at greater risk of hurricane storm surge. They estimate that in the case of a 1.5-foot-rise in sea level, "surge for a category 3 hurricane on a worst-case track would cause extensive flooding in many parts of the city. Areas potentially under water include the Rockaways, Coney Island, much of southern Brooklyn and Queens, portions of Long Island City, Astoria, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, lower Manhattan, and eastern Staten Island from Great Kills Harbor north to the Verrazano Bridge."

The researchers note that hurricanes have hit New York City in the past and caused extensive damage.