New research predicts increase of extreme flooding by the next century.
When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City and other coastal cities in 2012, it produced devastating results and flooded the area with as high as 9-feet of water. It’s nowhere near what could actually happen in the coming years. New research suggests that New York City will likely experience similar extreme flooding in the future as well, but on a more frequent basis. To put things into perspective, Hurricane Sandy-level flooding will become as much as 17 times more frequent by the end of the century, thanks to rising sea levels and climate change.
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A combined team of researchers from Princeton and Rutgers universities and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have presented these findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They are based on a combination of historical data and computers model projections and provide a relatively clear picture of long-term flood risk in coastal areas including New York City by accounting for both historical sea level rise and storm surges.
“To effectively prepare for future hurricanes, we need to know what coastal cities will be facing in the coming decades, but past models have not accounted for all of the significant dynamic factors involved in predicting surge floods. You need numbers to plan, and this analysis puts sea-level rise and storm surge climatology together on a quantitative basis,” said lead author Ning Lin from Princeton University.”
"Our model for the first time pulls together probabilistic estimates for sea-level rise and storm surge to produce long-term predictions of flood stages. These two variables, although largely uncertain, are critical in determining the extent of coastal flooding from future hurricanes.”
Hurricane Sandy was the second costliest hurricane in the history of the United States, which caused $75 billion in damages and 157 deaths in U.S. including 42 in New York. The flooding in New York City which was caused by Hurricane Sandy is believed to be extremely rare, with an estimated return period of more or less 1000 years. But new model predicts a higher flood risk by such extreme events.
“The grand answer is that things are going to get worse by 2100," said Benjamin P. Horton from Rutgers' School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. "If nothing changes with hurricanes, sea-level rise alone will increase the frequency of Sandy-like events by 2100.”
Researchers believe that this study will be crucial for making “well informed decisions about the future of this region.”