The smell of smoke filled the air in New York City Monday morning. Its source was a 1,600-acre brush fire in Wharton State Forest, NJ – about 90 miles away.
Burning since late Sunday, the smoke was trapped near the ground by a local temperature inversion. This is a weather phenomenon where the temperature in the atmosphere increases with height instead of decreasing. Essentially, the inversion layer acted like a lid and caused the smoke to spread out horizontally rather than vertically. A low level wind from the southeast then carried the smoke toward the city.
The smoky haze prompted the EPA to issue an air quality alert for the NYC area. With a spike in the pollutant known as “fine particulate matter”, this was the first time this year that the city’s air quality dropped below “moderate” on the agency’s AQI scale.
Smoky haze fills the air in NYC. Image Credit: PIX11.
Authored by more than 300 scientists from 70 countries, the report states, “In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans.” If left unchecked, according to this 2007 Nobel Prize winning group, the risks will only increase.
Of the many hazards listed in the massive report, one of the most significant involves global food production. Crop yields – especially wheat and corn – are forecast to decrease 2% per decade through 2100 while demand is expected to grow by 14% per decade through 2050. Renewable freshwater supplies are also likely to become stressed as weather patterns shift and dry areas become even drier. According to the report, “Each degree of warming is projected to decrease renewable water resources by at least 20% for an additional 7% of the global population.”
Another dire finding in the report concerns coastal communities around the globe. It states, “Due to sea-level rise throughout the 21st century and beyond, coastal systems and low-lying areas will increasingly experience adverse impacts such as submergence, coastal flooding and coastal erosion.”
Some of the other potential vulnerabilities mentioned in the report include political instability, economic losses, and threats to human health.
To minimize these grim possibilities, the IPCC emphasizes that, “Mitigation is considered essential for managing the risks of climate change.” If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, we can expect an additional 6-7°F increase in global temperature by 2100. “Large magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and challenging impacts,” according to the report. The current international goal is to keep the temperature increase below 2°C (3.6°F).
March 2014 was a month of volatile temperature swings in New York City. We had highs ranging between a frosty 29°F and a relatively balmy 66°F. In the end, however, with twenty out of thirty-one days posting cooler than normal readings, the cold won out. The city’s average monthly temperature was 37.7°F, which is 4.3°F below normal.
In terms of precipitation, March was mostly dry. The city received 3.67 inches of rain, which is 0.69 inches below normal. Of this total, almost half fell on a single day.
Snow was also scarce with a mere 0.1 inches measured in Central Park. On average, the month usually brings the Big Apple 3.6 inches. Closing out NYC’s 7th snowiest winter on record, March was the first time all season that the city received below average snowfall.