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US EAST COAST FLOODING COULD SOON RISE BY 350 TIMES

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US EAST COAST FLOODING COULD SOON RISE BY 350 TIMES

Post by Harry on Sat Oct 10, 2015 1:25 pm

September 22, 2015

US East Coast flooding could soon rise by 350 times

by Eric Hopton

Uh oh. Radley Horton, a climate scientist at Columbia University's Earth Institute, recently predicted a massive increase in flooding along the East coast of the United States, stating that flood risk could rise by as much as 350 times.

Alarming spikes

According to Horton’s study, a combination of two significant factors affecting the flood risk is greater than the sum of the parts. When he modeled the combined effect of climate-change driven sea level rises and coastal storms, he found the interaction could “produce alarming spikes in the combined height and duration of flooding.” In fact, the report, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, claims that coastal flooding could possibly shoot up several hundredfold by 2100, from the Northeast through to Texas.

Until now, these two hazards have been assessed mostly in isolation from each other. “When you look at hazards separately, it’s bad enough, but when you consider the joint effects of two hazards together, you can get some surprises," said Horton.

A region at risk

Sea levels are rising around the world, but the Eastern US has been particularly hit hard. Over the last hundred years, the East coast sea-level has risen far above the 8 inch global average. In much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, including New York City, the rise is up to 12 inches.

Global rise is being driven by melting ice and expansion of seawater as the ocean warms. But in the East coast region, sinking land and currents driving water towards the coast have made matters far worse. Most current estimates predict a further 2 to 4 foot rise by 2100. Some estimates are as high as 6 feet!

Other studies suggest the intensity of the biggest storms, generated in the North Atlantic by changes in the frequency and power of tropical cyclones, may increase, because warmer waters contain more energy.

The new study shows how the two factors may work together. The authors analyzed 15 climate models at five locations: Atlantic City, N.J.; Charleston, S.C.; Key West, Fla.; Pensacola, Fla.; and Galveston, Tex. They also considered the probability that the models could act together in time to produce more than the sum of their parts. Five models simulated both high local sea-level rises and increases in the strongest storms. Based on the analysis, the authors make two projections for the 21st century.

Two scenarios, both bad news

First, they predicted, if the world greatly reduces emissions of greenhouse gases, calculations suggest a 4 to 75 fold increase in the flood index, which is the combined heights and durations of expected floods.

In the second prediction, with “business as usual” and global warming going unchecked, the flood index might go up by 35 to 350 times. The study does not account for sea-level rises caused by ice melt, so the hazards could be even worse than predicted.

“It’s an aggregate number over a big area, not a specific prediction for any one place. But these projections help lay the groundwork for more specific research that will be valuable for adapting to climate change,” said lead author Christopher Little of Atmospheric and Environmental Research.

The paper adds to the scientific basis for ongoing risk assessments such as those of the New York City Panel on Climate Change, to which both Little and Horton have contributed.

-----

Feature Image: Little et al., Nature Climate Change

Read more at http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1113409125/us-east-coast-flooding-could-soon-rise-by-350-times-092215/#PiKP47ZA2bRAxZui.99

Harry
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