Sea-level rise, not stronger storm surge, will cause future NYC flooding
- October 23, 2017
- Penn State
- Rising sea levels caused by a warming climate threaten greater future storm damage to New York City, but the paths of stronger future storms may shift offshore, changing the coastal risk for the city, according to a team of climate scientists
Rising sea levels caused by a warming climate threaten greater future storm damage to New York City, but the paths of stronger future storms may shift offshore, changing the coastal risk for the city, according to a team of climate scientists.
“If we cause large sea-level rise, that dominates future risks, but if we could prevent sea-level rise and just have the storm surge to worry about, our projections show little change in coastal risk from today during most years,” said Michael E. Mann, distinguished professor of meteorology and atmospheric science and director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center. “While those storms that strike New York City might be bigger and stronger, there may be fewer of them as changing storm tracks increasingly steer the storms away from NYC and toward other regions.”
Coastal damage increases if the sea level is higher before a storm, and if the extra surge caused by the storm is higher.
The researchers looked at the history and future of both sea level and storm surge, from preindustrial times through 2300, in models that had been run for the full period. The researchers focused on results from simulations with rapid carbon dioxide release, often referred to as “business-as-usual” simulations. They reported their results online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Future changes in sea level and storms would be smaller if actions were taken to slow climate change, such as the Paris Accord’s goal of limiting warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Sea level has been rising, and this is expected to continue as warming causes ocean water to expand and ice on land to melt and release water into the ocean. But, rapid change in the behavior of parts of the Antarctic ice sheet might cause much greater rise than is often included in coastal planning.