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Study details frightening heat and water changes expected in major U.S. city: 'The challenges we are facing are really immense'

Nearly 170 U.S. communities will experience chronic flooding within 20 years.

Philadelphia's Delaware River

Photo Credit: iStock

Philadelphia is looking at a wet, hot future, and it's not a good thing. 

Phys.org reported that data from the Climate Resilience Research Agenda's (CRRA) new study show that the Delaware River could rise by more than a foot by the 2050s, while average temperatures in the City of Brotherly Love could rise by nearly six degrees, with a potential rise in extreme heat days. 

 What's happening?

The overheating of our planet, largely due to our reliance on dirty energy sources like gas and oil, is accelerating, and it will have a devastating effect on both the Delaware River Basin and the city of Philadelphia. 

The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed reported that an increase in average annual precipitation and the frequency and intensity of storms means that nearly 170 U.S. communities will experience chronic flooding within 20 years. 

"The challenges we are facing are really immense," Raymond Najjar, a professor of Oceanography in the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science at Pennsylvania State University, said at a conference on the topic, Delaware Currents reported.

The CRRA report pointed out that Philadelphia is already experiencing an increase in average precipitation, with six of the 10 wettest years on record having occurred since 1990. 

Further, the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed reported that an analysis of 51 years of weather data shows that Philadelphia's average summer temperature has gotten three degrees warmer, and average summer nights have warmed by 3.8 degrees. 

And neither of these rising numbers are going to slow down. 

Why do the heat waves and rising water matter?

Toxic, heat-trapping gases are the cause of both increased temperatures and rising water levels. As changes to the climate accelerate, its effects will accelerate right along with it. 

Not only will chronic flooding gravely affect the millions of people who live alongside the river, but rising temperatures combined with the urban heat island effect will also make heat-related illnesses worse.

Franco Montalto, a Drexel University engineering professor who coedited the CRRA report, said that these changing patterns could also impact the urban forest, wetlands, and floodplains. This means increased precipitation and rising temperatures will negatively affect wildlife, too. 

What can be done to help Philadelphia? 

Local communities are enacting restoration projects, building infrastructure resilience, and researching ways to rely less heavily on dirty energy sources, as well as making electrical systems more resilient to the projected floods and storms in the region. 

As individuals, we can help by supporting legislation and programs that address the issues worsened by the changing climate in the region. 

We can also produce less planet-warming pollution by moving away from single-use plastics, switching from gas-powered cars, and utilizing clean energy sources whenever able. 

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