Studies Indicate Increasing Frequency of Intense Storms, Storm Surges
A new MIT-Princeton University study examining the prospective impacts of extreme storms and storm surges based on a range of climate change scenarios indicates that what were once 100-year and 500-year events would become 3 to 20 and 25 to 240-year events. The study can help coastal planners, who typically design coastal seawalls, buildings and other structures with a 60 to 120-year usable lifespan, according to an MIT News report.
The US may be already experiencing these climate change effects. This past year’s Hurricane Irene took an unusual track, cutting a long and wide path up the US Atlantic coast from mid-Atlantic through New England states, while Winter Storm Alfred battered New England unseasonably early. US state planning agencies and climate researchers, such as those in Vermont, are considering strengthening environmental conservation efforts, along with a host of other measures, to help plan for and mitigate the effects increasing frequency of intense storms, storm surges and floods pose.
Modeling Climate Change, Intense Storms and Storm Surge Floods
Combining four climate models, a specific hurricane model and three different models for predicting regional storm surges — one used by the National Hurricane Center — to study "current climate" (1981-2000) and "future climate" (2081-2100) scenarios, a joint MIT-Princeton University research team compared the results of multiple climate change-hurricane-regional storm surge simulations. Though the results varied, they all showed that the frequency of intense storms would increase due to climate change.
Using Battery Park City at the southern tip of Manhattan in New York City as a reference point, the researchers generated 45,000 storm simulations within a 200-km (~120-mile) radius. A 100-year storm there today means a flood surge of about two meters. A 500-year storm surge means three-meter high surge floods. Either would easily pass over the top of Manhattan's 1.5-meter (4.95-foot) seawalls, noted MIT postdoctoral researcher Ning Lin, lead author of the study.
Hurricane image via Shutterstock