The Impact of Climate Change in New York

In 2021, The New York Times reported that the country has become both wetter and drier, depending on where you live. In New York, rain events have become a serious issue, and new records are being set at an alarming pace. James F. Booth, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science at the City College of New York, says that New York has to deal with several climate-change-related hazards that include, but are not limited to rain events and flooding as a result of rain events.

On August 21, 2021, Central Park received 1.94″ of rain between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., and the National Weather Service reported that it was the wettest hour on record for New York City. That same day, the same weather station reported a daily total of 4.45″ of rain, making it the wettest day since record-keeping began. Over two days ending August 23, 8.19 inches fell in Central Park, the most since Hurricane Irene in 2021. The storm surge wasn’t as bad as predicted, but NASA stated the “rainfall was a different story.”

Less than a month later, more rainfall records were shattered when 3.15″ fell in Central Park between 8:51 p.m. and 9:51 p.m., and over three hours, the park received 7.19” of rain in a 24-hour period. “That rain rate is extraordinary and dangerous, but particularly for the city where there’s nowhere for the rain to go,” Dr. Booth says.

“Rain rates are larger now than 30 years ago,” Dr. Booth explains, adding that a one-hour rain event often produces heavier rain than used to fall during a six-hour rain event. Flooding during these rain events, especially when they’re back to back, shuts down trains and creates havoc on the roadways, which sometimes look more like rivers. In September 2023, another record was set. 

After raining for 14 out of 30 days, New York City experienced the wettest September in a century, effectively shutting down half of the city’s subways and commuter rails. 

It’s not only an inconvenience, but it’s also hazardous, and people often travel when it’s not safe to do so. “The climate that we’re in now is different than the climate that we were in 30 years ago,” Dr. Booth says, “So our preparedness needs to evolve with it.”