Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

N.J.'S Risk of Another Sandy Low This Year

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

N.J.'S Risk of Another Sandy Low This Year

Article excerpt

Here's the good news: Currently there's a less than 1 percent chance in any given year for the Jersey Shore to experience the same level of flooding caused last October by Superstorm Sandy.

But the likelihood of such flooding could become far more common by the end of this century -- once every 20 years, or even every year, depending on the extent of future sea level rise, according to a federal study released Thursday.

The report was part of a larger study that looked at whether climate change had any impact on the intensity of 12 weather events around the globe in 2012. The study found little evidence that climate change had any impact at all on some weather events, including a severe Midwest drought that summer.

But several events, including Sandy, were worsened because of climate change, the study says.

In the case of Sandy, melting glaciers over the past several decades have caused the sea level to rise along the Jersey Shore, making flooding worse than it would have been. If sea level continues to rise at expected rates, the same level of flooding could be produced by less potent storms than Sandy, the report concludes.

The report's findings "are concerning, as they imply that events of less and less severity [from less powerful storms] will produce similar impacts" as Sandy did, writes William Sweet, a sea level oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and one of the report's authors.

"We have to remember that the thrust of this report is Sandy surge, not Sandy as the wicked beast it was," said David Robinson, a Rutgers professor and the state climatologist. "This flooding could come from a pure hurricane or a slow moving nor'easter. We're not talking about the hybrid monster storms like Sandy."

Anthony J. Broccoli, a Rutgers University expert on climate change, agreed with that basic conclusion of the report. "Whether we will have more frequent or intense storms is a complicated question that climate scientists are still trying to answer," Broccoli said. "But even if storms remain the same, sea level rise will make their impacts more severe."

Sweet's report was released as part of a larger study, "Explaining Extreme Events of 2012 From a Climate Perspective." Overall, 18 research teams contributed to the peer-reviewed report that examined the causes of 12 extreme events on five continents and in the Arctic.

Sweet's report predicts that by 2050, Sandy-level flooding could occur every 100 years or so at Sandy Hook, but by 2100, it could be every 20 years -- or even yearly.

Several experts on climate change and sea level rise agreed with Sweet's general conclusion -- that flooding at levels brought by Sandy last year will be more common as sea level rise continues. But they cautioned that predicting events so far into the future is a challenge. …

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