New York City will be threatened by major flooding in the next decades as a result of global warming, a study has revealed.
The findings were published on September 28, in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences (PNAS), by a team of researchers from Penn State University, Princeton University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Scientists analyzed sediment collected along the New Jersey shore, in order to determine sea levels between 850 and 1800, and also between 1970 and 2005 (the “anthropogenic era”). They also performed computer simulations of hurricanes, under climate change scenarios.
They established that before the 19th century, floods surpassing 7.4 feet above sea level occurred just once in half a millennium. In the last decades however, flooding has been taking place once in 24 years.
The likelihood of such a phenomenon affecting the area is therefore much higher now than a thousand years ago or even last century, according to researchers. It has become an occurence that can be witnessed several times in a lifetime, whereas in the distant past several centuries would pass between such disasters.
The most populous city in the United States now has a much higher risk of being flooded, as a result of hurricanes and strong storms. This is because of a significant rise in sea levels due to man-made climate change, and also because of modifications in storm behavior.
“We see more intense storms with a greater ability to produce high storm surges at The Battery in NYC during the anthropogenic era than during the pre-anthropogenic era”, explained the researchers.
According to the experts, tropical cyclones are much larger and intense than before, with stronger winds and wider radius, causing greater damage. The average surge nowadays is 4.1 feet higher than back when humans had a less disruptive impact on the environment.
As a result, study authors call for “advanced risk management strategies” so that authorities can invest in disaster preparedness and take all the necessary measures when coastal flooding occurs.
These recommendations are also supported by other researchers, who believe places like the Rockaway Peninsula and Staten Island are at risk of inundation in the next decades, due to hurricanes and increased sea levels.
Before the 19th century, the level of oceans rose just slightly due to natural causes, such as melting glaciers. In contrast, since the beginning of the 20th century, sea levels have increased by a foot, and according to estimations they will grow by 29 more inches by the end of this century.
Scientists believe that almost 90% of this elevation is the result of human activity. As these changes unfold, hurricanes will become a much more common occurrence and their impact will be tremendous.
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