According to a recent study, more frequent flooding of New York City, as well as other coastal cities, may be attributable to climate change.
Hurricane Sandy might be considered an extreme case, making landfall October 29, 2012, and cleanup efforts are ongoing. The rare combination of factors, including the timing of the storm surge with a full moon high tide, as well as sea level rise, led to some of the worst flooding that New York City has seen in nearly two centuries. Hurricane Sandy’s storm tide reached a record 14.1 ft. By the numbers, about 5 ft was attributable to the full-moon high tide, about a foot to sea-level rise (read: climate change) since 1900, and a whopping 8.1 ft attributable to an unusual storm surge.
While it seems clear that climate change may be responsible for the one foot in sea level rise in the last century, due to melting artic and glacial ice, it’s not so clear whether climate change can be pinned responsible for increased hurricane activity. One thing is for certain, however, that severe weather events are on the rise around the globe. According to the research regarding Hurricane Sandy’s impact on New York City, the chance of flooding has gone from once about every 100-400 years to once every four or five years.
Is climate change responsible for three of the highest flood levels in the last hundred years, all of which occurred in the last five years? Researchers are seeing the trend, but attributing it to climate change may not be the only deciding factor. True, climate change is leading to more extreme weather events, but localized factors may also come into play, especially when it comes to coastal storms, such as dredging shipping channels or the decades-long North Atlantic Oscillation.
Photo credit: MTAPhotos / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)