Hurricane Sandy anniversary: Concern over climate change and sea level rise

Hurricane Sandy and Fisker KarmaA little over a year ago – Oct. 29, 2012 – Hurricane Sandy struck New Jersey and the New York City metropolitan area in what became the most significant weather disaster since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005. Debate flared up about what caused this devastating event and its aftermath – 117 deaths; 200,000 homes damaged and a few hospitals; eight million residents affected by power outages; transportation being stopped; and $68 billion in costs. A lot of cars were destroyed at Port Newark, New Jersey, and it was one of the events that pushed Fisker Automotive far to the edge of staying in existence.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg knew it was caused by climate change; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie doesn’t think climate change had anything to do with it. Stakeholders in the automotive and transportation sectors have been discussing the impact of the storm and what needs to be done to prepare for future emergencies.

Here’s the latest analysis on the impact of Hurricane Sandy……

  1. There’s been some disagreement by scientists and oceanographers on whether Hurricane Sandy was actually caused by climate change or if it was started by “perfect storm” conditions converging and flooding the region. As for the future – a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found low confidence that there will be climate-changed caused increases in tropical storms; other studies by experts that were completed too late to be included in the IPCC report differ on predictions for climate change’s storm impact.
  2. There is agreement by experts that the sea level has been rising and will continue to do so. This increases danger from storm surges; with the growling population around the world close to coastlines, the implications are staggering.
  3. Scientists at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., and their colleagues, are taking lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy to improve their coastal-flooding models to better assist evacuation and disaster relief plans. Bulkheads and seawalls will need to be elevated in preparation.
  4. Sandy wasn’t actually a hurricane – its wind speed had fallen below the necessary 74 miles per hour minimum level that’s needed for a tropical storm to become a hurricane. It actually should be referred to as “post-tropical cyclone” Sandy.
  5. While New Jersey and New York got most of the attention and media coverage, the coastal storm covered more than 1,000 miles along the East Coast. It broke 16 records for the highest storm tide ever.
  6. More than a third of the US population – 123 million people – live in coastal counties; this increased nearly 40% from 1970 to 2010; about 3.7 million live within feet of the sea at high tide.
  7. “Climate adaption,” “disaster preparedness,” and “sea level rise” were three search terms found to be connected to media coverage and discussions of Hurricane Sandy.
  8. Mayor Bloomberg has proposed a $20 billion plan designed to toughen the city against floods and storm surges. Much of that money would go to build flood walls, levees, and bulkheads.
  9. While government officials are exploring disaster relief and coastal protection policies, public opinion and media coverage have shown little interest in climate change and rising sea levels as issues that need to be addressed at the national level.
  10. 10. We can expect to see storm preparation and disaster relief as political and economic issues that will become more commonplace in elections, regional planning, and corporate policies. Transportation planning would be part of it.

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