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Study: Sandy-Level Storm Surge Flooding To Be Common In New York

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A new study has revealed that, due to anthropogenic climate change, Sandy-level storm surge flooding will become “common” in New York within the relatively near future.

To be more specific, the study findings are that rather than Sandy-level storm surge flooding being a “400-year-event,” it could become something that happens roughly every 23 years.

While the study results are particular to the New York area, the methods used by the researchers to reach them can be applied to many other places in the Atlantic Basin. Catastrophic storm surge flooding is going to become more and more of a problem in a great many areas throughout the Atlantic Basin as the century grinds on.

Climate Central provides more: “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 US), killed dozens and even shut down the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island for a year.”

Continuing: “Sea level rise played a major role in driving Sandy’s surge. Oceans have risen about (a) foot in New York Harbor since the start of the 20th century. Past research has shown that sea level rise has helped increase the odds of waters overtopping Manhattan’s defenses from once in every 100 to 400 years in the 19th century to once in every four to five years. The trend has accelerated and is expected to keep doing so. In the new study, researchers at Princeton and Rutgers estimated that New York is likely to see 20 to 40 inches of sea level rise by the end of the century. That alone will make the risk of a Sandy-level storm surge increase to once every 90 years. (It should be noted that the results don’t mean a surge like that will happen like clockwork, but rather reflect the odds of a storm surge like that occurring in a given year.)”

With the factor of increasingly intense hurricanes included, this figure then rises high enough that Sandy-level storm surge could become as common an occurrence as once in every 23 years.

Notably, the 23-year figure doesn’t factor in the possibility of increasingly common hurricanes — as the research is still unclear on that matter. Storm intensity absolutely will be increasing, though, as the seas warm.

Also, notably, the researchers relied on a “middle of the road” climate scenario, where aggressive actions are taken to reduce emissions — it could actually become the case that such storm surge events are much more common than even every 23 years.

Maximum storm surge heights will, themselves, also rise significantly.

The new findings are detailed in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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