Cynthia Rosenzweig: Guardian of Gotham
As Superstorm Sandy battered the US east coast this year, Cynthia Rosenzweig huddled with her 97-year-old mother in a suburb of New York City, not far from where she grew up. After making sure that her own home had sustained only minor damage, Rosenzweig turned her attention to the city, which had not been so lucky. Sandy had driven a 4-metre wall of water into low-lying neighbourhoods, destroying homes, flooding transportation tunnels and leaving millions of people without power. Although the damage came as a shock to most, Rosenzweig and a team of researchers had forecast those consequences a dozen years earlier as part of the first national assessment by the US Global Change Research Program. “Everything that happened is in our earliest report,” says Rosenzweig. Because of that work and many follow-on studies conducted for state and city officials, New York has incorporated climate-change adaptation and resilience into its long-term planning initiatives, which include upgrading building codes and managing parks and wetlands to accommodate flooding and sea-level rise. The actions have made New York a leader among cities working to prepare for the threats of climate change, says Rosenzweig. She is now trying to assess whether these steps helped to lessen Sandy’s impacts, which may offer a preview of the threats expected as climate change intensifies storms and raises sea levels.