Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sandy’s Surge Was Extreme.  It Could Become Normal

Storm surge damage from Sandy on Staten Island. (Credit: Somayya Ali Ibrahim) Click to Enlarge.
The destructive force of storm surge was on clear display this weekend as Hurricane Matthew ripped across the Caribbean, Florida and the Carolinas.  For some in New York it may have brought back memories of Sandy, another destructive October storm that broke flood records and upended the metropolitan area.

Research published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that the risk posed by future storms like Sandy is only going to increase due to climate change.  The potential for stronger storms and rising seas mean Sandy-level flooding could could occur once every 23 years as opposed to once every 400.

The results are specific to New York, but the methods could be applied anywhere in the Atlantic hurricane basin to show the rising risks of catastrophic flooding as the world warms.

Sandy has become a touchpoint for climate adaptation efforts in New York.  The October 2012 storm generated the highest storm tide ever recorded in New York, reaching to nearly 14 feet in height, about 9 feet of which was from storm surge.

Overall, the storm caused $19 billion in damage in the region (and $50 billion in total for the U.S.), killed dozens and even shut down the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island for a year. Planning for future flood events like Sandy is crucial for protecting the 8 million people that call New York home.

“Following Hurricane Sandy, New York has been making plans on risk mitigation strategies and building coastal defenses,” Ning Lin, an engineer at Princeton who led the study, said.  “These designs would be more effective and economic if based on state-of-the-art climate projections. Our study provides such projections.”

Sea level rise played a major role in driving Sandy’s surge.  Oceans have risen about foot in New York Harbor since the start of the 20th century.

Read more at Sandy’s Surge Was Extreme.  It Could Become Normal

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