Mayor Bloomberg's Statement Starts Climate Debate

By Mark Paquette
November 3, 2012; 5:00 AM ET
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks to the media at Seward Park High School on the lower east side, the site of one of many public shelters set up in preparation of the storm, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano)

Climate change was not much of an issue in the presidential campaign until Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, rattling Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg endorsed President Barack Obama Thursday, stating he feels the president is the better candidate to tackle the global climate change that he believes might have contributed to Sandy.

"Our climate is changing," Bloomberg wrote in an opinion piece for Bloomberg View. "And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be--given this week's devastation--should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action."

With that statement, Bloomberg put the issue of climate change front and center in the presidential election.

"[Before Sandy] The topic did not come up during the three presidential debates, and the candidates have not provided detailed legislative or regulatory plans outlining their stances on the issue," stated the New York Times.

Bloomberg is correct that New York City has seen more than its fair share of hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes and heat waves recently.

Hurricanes

--Sandy in 2012 and Irene in 2011

Heat Waves/Excessive Warmth

--Endured in July 2012, March 2012, July 2011, July 2010, April 2009 and June 2007

Tornadoes

--EF0 tornado near Breezy Point on Sept. 8, 2012

--Two tornadoes (one an EF1) in Brooklyn and Queens on Sept. 16, 2010

--EF1 tornado in the Bronx on July 25, 2010

--EF2 tornado in Brooklyn and Staten Island on Aug. 8, 2007

Snowstorms

--19.0 inches from Jan. 25-27, 2011

--20.0 inches from Dec. 26-27, 2010 (called "Snowmageddon)

--20.9 inches from Feb. 25-26, 2010

--26.9 inches from Feb. 11-12, 2006

Hurricane Sandy Radar Loop from Oct. 29-30

Data suggests that severe weather events have hampered the millions of people living in one of the world's largest cities more often in the past five years as compared to the roughly 10 previous years.

AccuWeather.com Climate Change Blogger Brett Anderson also confirms that "Water levels are higher in New York City than they were 30 years ago and sea surface temperatures of the Atlantic off the Northeast coast are warmer than normal."

According to a recent report from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), sea levels along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Massachusetts are rising three to four times faster than the global average over the past two decades.

That, the USGS states, is increasing the threat of serious coastal flooding during major storms.

However, the question still remains as to whether the recent rash of extreme weather and the unusually warm Atlantic is due to rapid climate change or is a part of a natural cycle that leads to episodes of violent weather.

The New York City area experienced plenty of extreme weather events from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, when the sea surface temperatures were warm--but not as warm as presently.

During that time, New York City was impacted by major snowstorms, and three tropical systems (Connie, Diane and Edna) impacted the area in a span of two years (1954-55).

In Anderson's opinion, "I cannot really say for sure that this extremely rare event [Sandy] was a product of climate change."

"However, as the planet continues to warm and the sea levels continue to rise, we can probably expect to see a continued increase in these extreme weather events over the coming decades."

AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Bernie Rayno continued the discussion by stating, "The term 'climate change' is one of the most misunderstood terms ever created."

"Is the climate changing? Of course it is, it has been changing since the dawning of time. It always changes. The question is, 'are humans contributing to this change or is it just a part of the nature cycle of the Earth?' Does Anthropogenetic (man-made) Global Warming exist?"

"My belief," Rayno continued, "is that much of what we are seeing is part of the overall climate cycle. The forces that control the Earth's climate are many and complex. Trying to blame one single element on changing something so complex is a gross error."

"It is also incorrect to single man-made global warming as the single factor for Sandy. This is a clear knee-jerk reaction. This was also done with Hurricane Katrina, which is now widely accepted as an incorrect conclusion."

Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski contributed to the content of this story.

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