With New York City still recovering from damage sustained during Hurricane Sandy five years later, a new report predicts the city can expect quite a few more devastating hurricanes in the future thanks to warming in Antarctica, and other effects of climate change.
The study, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences yesterday, found that a partial collapse in the Antarctic ice sheet would likely exacerbate storm surges and sea level rises in coming storms, making future hurricanes more powerful and Hurricane Sandy-like events more frequent. In fact, researchers found that by 2030 to 2045, storms similar to Hurricane Sandy could increase to a one-in-five-years event, up from a one-in-500-years event in 1800 and a one-in-25-years event today.
"Although we do find minimal changes to future storm surge because of a compensation between shifting storm tracks and increasing storm intensity, we find drastic increases to overall flood heights due to rising sea-levels, which we calculate by combining storm surge with potential future sea-levels," lead researcher Andra Garner told the Washington Post.
Scientists have previously predicted that should the Antarctic ice sheet melt, global sea levels could see a 3-foot-plus spike. In fact, the future status of the ice sheet has such a profound effect on sea levels that researchers found the flood height in Battery Park during a Hurricane Sandy-type storm could range anywhere from 16.4 to 50.5 feet by 2300—Hurricane Sandy's flood height was at 9.2 feet.
Even with the ice sheet remaining stable, sea levels are expected to rise enough to net the city more significant flooding. Indeed, even though some models show hurricanes moving farther away from the city in the future, the ones that do come near us will be much worse than we've traditionally come to expect. "It looks like under all of the main scenarios and models examined, by the end of the century if not earlier, New York would regularly see floods high enough to flood the subway system as engineered today," sea-level-rise expert Benjamin Strauss told WaPo. Certainly, the MTA is prepared.
Our subways are so scenic, like a tropical waterfall. pic.twitter.com/wNFaX4LTIV
— Kate Erbland (@katerbland) July 7, 2017