Increased threat of tropical cyclones and coastal flooding to New York City during the anthropogenic era

Andra J. Reed, Michael E. Mann, Kerry A. Emanuel, Ning Lin, Benjamin P. Horton, Andrew C. Kemp, Jeffrey P. Donnelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Scopus citations

Abstract

In a changing climate, future inundation of the United States' Atlantic coast will depend on both storm surges during tropical cyclones and the rising relative sea levels on which those surges occur. However, the observational record of tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic basin is too short (A.D. 1851 to present) to accurately assess long-term trends in storm activity. To overcome this limitation, we use proxy sea level records, and downscale three CMIP5 models to generate large synthetic tropical cyclone data sets for the North Atlantic basin; driving climate conditions span from A.D. 850 to A.D. 2005. We compare pre-anthropogenic era (A.D. 850-1800) and anthropogenic era (A.D.1970-2005) storm surge model results for New York City, exposing links between increased rates of sea level rise and storm flood heights. We find that mean flood heights increased by ∼1.24 m (due mainly to sea level rise) from ∼A.D. 850 to the anthropogenic era, a result that is significant at the 99% confidence level. Additionally, changes in tropical cyclone characteristics have led to increases in the extremes of the types of storms that create the largest storm surges for New York City. As a result, flood risk has greatly increased for the region; for example, the 500-y return period for a ∼2.25-m flood height during the preanthropogenic era has decreased to ∼24.4 y in the anthropogenic era. Our results indicate the impacts of climate change on coastal inundation, and call for advanced risk management strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12610-12615
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume112
Issue number41
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 13 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

Keywords

  • Flood height
  • New Jersey
  • Relative sea level
  • Storm surge
  • Tropical cyclones

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