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Climate change could swamp NASA space centers

Climate change could swamp NASA space centers

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A report released this morning from the Union of Concerned Scientists says NASA may face an unexpected threat from climate change: underwater launch pads. The report identifies eight different facilities at risk from rising sea levels in coming decades, including several that have already faced extreme conditions. Space centers in Mississippi and Louisiana sustained more than $750 million in damage from Hurricane Katrina, and the Johnson Space center in Texas sustained comparable damage from Hurricane Ike. Storm surges regularly breach the dunes at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, leading to concerns about how the historic site will stand up to more volatile weather in the future.

The report identifies eight NASA facilities at risk

Beyond the NASA facilities, the report looks at national landmarks that might be imperiled by floods and wildfires, focusing on the American cultural heritage left at risk. Case studies include Jamestown Island, where archaeologists are struggling to preserve artifacts of the first European settlements in America, and the Statue of Liberty, where engineers were forced to move electrical systems to higher ground in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that sea levels may rise by as much as two feet by 2100. Coupled with warmer ocean temperatures and more volatile weather patterns, the shifts will expose low-lying coastal regions to stronger and more catastrophic storms. "At some sites, such as Liberty and Ellis Islands and Cape Hatteras, steps have already been taken to prepare for these growing climate risks," the report reads. "At many other sites, such efforts have not yet begun."