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Warning of Venice

A man carries a woman on his back through the flooded St. Mark's Square during a period of seasonal high water in Venice, Italy,

What will global warming do to coastal cities? A glimpse may have been offered by the flood that has thrown life out of gear in Venice. Not since 1966 has seawater risen so high in this Italian city of canals. Contrary to popular imagery, Venice does have open patches of land, some of which went dramatically under water at high tide. The latest report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had warned that melting polar caps could raise mean sea levels by about 110cm by 2100. Venice has just seen its level rise higher than that.

“These are the effects of climate change… the costs will be high,” tweeted Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro. But wait, our polar caps haven’t melted yet. So what was he talking about? Extra oceanic water as a result of molten ice is not the only effect of rising temperatures. Wind patterns are going awry too. A low-pressure zone in the Mediterranean, associated with an odd pattern of jet streams across the northern hemisphere, appears to have drawn Sirocco winds from the Sahara that are so strong that they’ve brought a “storm surge” upon Venice. Yes, global warming does seem to be the culprit.

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