Wednesday, October 30, 2013

4 Reasons You Should Worry About Another Sandy

One year after the destruction, here's what we know about climate change and storms. 

by Chris Mooney for Mother Jones

One year ago, when Superstorm Sandy devastated much of New Jersey and New York City, the event sparked an intense national discussion about an issue that had gone mysteriously undiscussed during the presidential campaign: climate change. According to research by media scholar Max Boykoff of the University of Colorado, there was actually more media coverage of climate change in leading US newspapers following Sandy than there was following the recent release of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report.
Why? According to NASA researchers, Sandy's particular track made it a 1-in-700-year storm event. It was, to put it mildly, meteorologically suspicious.
So now, with a year's distance and a lot of thought and debate, what can we say about climate change and Sandy—and hurricanes in general? A lot, as it turns out. Here's what we know:
1. Sea level rise is making hurricanes more damaging—and Sandy is just the beginning. The most direct and undeniable way that global warming worsened Sandy is through sea level rise. According to climate researcher Ben Strauss of Climate Central, sea level in New York Harbor is 15 inches higher today than it was in 1880, and of those 15 inches, 8 are due to global warming's influence (the melting of land-based ice, and the thermal expansion of seawater as it warms). And that matters: For every inch of sea level rise, an estimated 6,000 additional people were impacted by Sandy who wouldn't have been otherwise. That's why Strauss told me last year, in the wake of the storm, that there is "100 percent certainty that sea level rise made this worse. Period." Read More