Climate Change: “Once in a Lifetime” Floods to Become Regular Occurrences by End of Century

Sea Level Rise Scenarios in Jamaica Bay

Sea level rise scenarios have a 50% and 5% chance of exceedance in the mid-twenty-first century (panels a and b) and the late-twenty-first century (panels c and d). Areas in dark and light blue cover flooded areas. Credit: Stevens Institute of Technology

Stevens researcher and colleague find flood levels reached by Superstorm Sandy could be seen in Jamaica Bay every four years by the end of the 21st century.

Superstorm Sandy brought flood-levels to the New York region that had not been seen in generations. Causing an estimated $74.1 billion in damages, it was the fourth-costliest U.S. storm behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and hurricanes Harvey and Maria in 2017 according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Now, due to the impact of climate change, researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology have found that 100-year and 500-year flood levels could become regular occurrences for the thousands of homes surrounding Jamaica Bay, New York by the end of the century.

The study, led by Reza Marsooli, assistant professor of civil, environmental and ocean engineering at Stevens, can help policymakers and the coastal municipality of Jamaica Bay make decisions on whether to apply coastal flood defenses or other planning strategies or policies for reducing future risk. It also provides an example of the extent of how coastal flooding will increase in the future across the New York region and other areas due to the impacts of climate change.

“While this study was specific to Jamaica Bay, it shows how drastic and costly of an impact that climate change will make,” said Marsooli, whose work appears in the November 26 issue of Climatic Change. “The framework we used for this study can be replicated to demonstrate how flooding in other regions will look by the end of the century to help them mitigate risk and best protect communities and assets in impacted areas.”

Based on the anticipated greenhouse gas concentration by the end of the 21st century, Marsooli and his co-author Ning Lin, from Princeton University, conducted high resolution simulations for different scenarios to find the probability of different flood levels being reached, assuming emissions remain at a high level. They studied how sea level rise and  hurricane climatology change would impact the area in the future due to storm surge and wave hazards.

Marsooli and Lin found that the historical 100-year flood level would become a nine-year flood level by mid-century (2030-2050) and a one-year flood level by late 21st century (2080-2100). Most recently reached by Superstorm Sandy, 500-year flood levels would become a 143-year flood level, and then a four-year flood level by the end of the century. Additionally, sea-level rise would result in larger waves which could lead to more flood hazards such as erosion and damage to coastal infrastructure.

“Future projections of the hurricane climatology suggest that climate change would lead to storms that move more slowly and are more intense than we have ever seen before hitting Jamaica Bay,” said Marsooli. “But the increase in these once-in-a-generation or even less frequent floods is so dramatic because the impact of sea-level rise will create greater flooding, even if the storms we were seeing today stayed the same.”

Reference: “Impacts of climate change on hurricane flood hazards in Jamaica Bay, New York” by Reza Marsooli and Ning Lin, 26 November 2020, Climatic Change.
DOI: 10.1007/s10584-020-02932-x

2 Comments on "Climate Change: “Once in a Lifetime” Floods to Become Regular Occurrences by End of Century"

  1. From the linked Climatic Change article, “… the global mean sea level and the local mean sea level in many locations worldwide have been raising [sic] since the last century …” Actually, sea level has been increasing for about the last 11,000 years, with the last 8,000 years at a slower rate, and approximately linear. There is a question about acceleration because there have been other times when there was an apparent increase in the rate of SLR for approximately the same duration as recent observations.

    The authors rely on an assumption of RCP8.5, which is an improbable upper-bound; several researchers have pointed out that there aren’t enough fossil fuels to achieve the RCP8.5 scenario!

    The authors apparently did not take the effect of subsidence into account. The word “subsidence” does not occur in the text of their article.

    The illustrations are poorly implemented, as they are not intuitive. It took me a while to understand just what they were trying to convey. One’s eye is drawn to the bold, dark color, which represents no change (0.00 m SLR). They are trying to make the point of increased risk of flooding. Therefore, they should reverse the colors used to emphasize their forecast change so that the reader is clear that they are illustrating the speculative SLR increase.

    I’m quite disappointed in the quality of climatology research that gets past reviewers and is published!

  2. Sekar Vedaraman | December 7, 2020 at 2:47 pm | Reply

    Very Interesting Research.

    However, This Research is based on a Number of Assumptions which are assumed to be “Cetris Paribus”. Simulations need tbe done under various other Scenarios where Each assumption which is beleived to be a causitive factor is twaeked and Probabilistic Forecasts made. Probbility and statistical analysis and Sciennces may sometime lead to wildly incorrect forecasts.

    On a Persnal note, in buisness , ALL My Forecasts of Competitors numbers were highly accurate FOR ONE Quarter ONLY. They were extremely Accurate using both linear and non-linear models to try and see the future! However the accuracy declined dramaticallly the longer the length of time frame TO the attempt to see into the future. The boss had asked me to try a Simplified Neuron Like Model with innumerable factors to try and get more accurate scenarios to make more accurate foreasts in the long-term. Never got around to doing this. Climate Scientists cam try this and this may inncreasethe accuracy of the Forecast!

    This is indeed a very brave forecast for end of century events and catostrophes. Many of the causative factors could be mitigated with minimal damage to the economic and other fallouts of extreme and foolhardy actions. It may need to be done on a global basis by innovation on steroids and making it available FREE to the WHOLE WORLD ( Hopefully Like the Effective Vaccines for C-19) .

    Without ENERGY economy cannot function to meet the Needs and Desires of humanity.As the father of our Nation siad “There are enough Resources in the World to meet the NEEDS of everyone, However there are Not Enough Resources to support the Greed on even one man”.

    As I see it two ideal candidates available globally and also across the Universe are Solar Rays technology and Hydrogen which can be the source of our energy needs. Put research on this Globally on Steroids to ensure we keep the Planet Habitable. Will also helpus to travel to the Stars! (Space cadet Avatar)!

    In the meantime , this expplains of the Chinese Current Rulers who have already captured the TIBITEAN PLateau and ALSO their Claims to be the Owners of the Himalayas! Extraordinary. Maybe their forecasting models are superior ! However , I very much Doubt it. If the world makes such resources based economic development obsolete , we may have some impact on their GREED FOR TERRITORY Capture. They are an ancient Civilization and I have great respect for the People and this ancient people who paid a very steep price as did the Russian People in the past World Wars.

    However, this does not give anyone the right to occupy lands of Other Nations and do acts contrary to the RULE OF Law and acceptable behaviour. My respect for Brezhnev the Leader with a scar on his Head has gone up Immesurably. ThE USSR was an empire . Russia is an Advanced Scientific Nation at the Forefront of Scientific Research which is also highly secreative AS is the current emerging Chinese Civilization. All totalrian Nations become paraihs if they beleive that this Resources based model of Development will continue forever!

    We only have one habitable planet. Save it please with COMMON SENSE which has become very Uncommon.

    The Views and Opinions expressed are personal and NOT Binding on anyone.

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