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 today (Oct. 23) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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Image via Carolyn Fish, Pennsylvania State University