East Coast hurricanes keep getting more destructive: Here’s why


You may have heard on the news that a major hurricane — Joaquin — is currently gaining strength off of the Bahamas and is expected to barrel up the Eastern Seaboard this weekend. The latest reports suggest Joaquin will stay out to sea and that would be welcome news. This is the last thing that these regions of the Mid-Atlantic coastline need right now. You may recall that we’re coming up on the 3rd anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, the 2012 event that pummeled the New Jersey shore, damaging or destroying numerous homes. It also pushed floodwaters into lower Manhattan, flooding major tunnels and subways and necessitating hundreds of millions of dollars in lengthy repairs. Three years later, there are some homeowners still fighting the state and federal bureaucracies to get the money they need to rebuild from Sandy.

But Sandy in 2012 and now — depending on the track of the storm — Joaquin this weekend dramatize something else. Sea levels have been rising along the Eastern Seaboard, due to global warming — and that is increasing the destructive nature of the storms that do manage to hit the United States:

MANTOLOKING, N.J. (AP) — A new study looking back over 1,000 years finds the flooding risk along the New York and New Jersey coasts increased greatly after industrialization, and major storms that once might have occurred every 500 years could soon happen every 25 years or so.

The study by Penn State, Rutgers, Princeton, and Tufts universities, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, finds that flood heights have risen nearly 4 feet since the year 850, largely because of a sea level rise. The study advocates better risk management strategies to cope with storms.

It was released a month before the third anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated the coasts of New York and New Jersey.

“A storm that occurred once in seven generations is now occurring twice in a generation,” said Benjamin Horton of Rutgers, one of six lead researchers involved in the study. “What we do know is that as sea level rise accelerates into the future, we are going to have more frequent flooding.”

Another academic, Adam Sobel, an atmospheric scientist at Columbia University and author of the book “Storm Surge” about Superstorm Sandy, told the AP that cities like New York are going to remain in the crosshairs as long as global warming accelerates this rise in sea levels. “This is just one more good study adding certainty to what we know already, which is that coastal cities around the world — including New York, but we’re not the only one, nor the worst — are in trouble,” Sobel said. “This makes the direction of change certain: We are at increasing risk for Sandy-like disasters here in New York City and in many other places as well.”

As a resident of the Gulf Coast who endured Hurricane Katrina a decade ago, I’m not looking forward to the sight of another destructive storm striking such a heavily populated area. But what’s even more frustrating is the knowledge that humans have the power to make things better — to reduce the amount of carbon-based fuels that we extract from the earth and that we use to run our power plants and to drive our cars. Yet we have a political class — led by the obstructionists who dominate the U.S. Congress — that refuses to pay attention to what the scientists are telling us, and that looks away from the lessons of Mother Nature. How many more Katrinas, Sandys, and now Joaquins will it take for them to get the message?

Read more about the major new study on rising East Coast sea levels and destructive storms: http://www.thepublicopinion.com/news/associated_press/science_and_technology/study-sea-level-rise-increasing-major-storms-off-new-jersey/article_3b6754af-68ca-5fe2-8e41-cadaf76f8317.html

Learn more about the case for ending our addiction to fossil fuels in my new book, Crude Justice: How I Fought Big Oil and Won, and What You Should Know About the New Environmental Attack on Americahttp://shop.benbellabooks.com/crude-justice

© Stuart H. Smith, LLC 2015 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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