Thursday, February 7, 2013

Climate change impacts absent from FEMA's redrawn NYC flood maps

Katherine Bagley in InsideClimate News: When the federal government released updated flood maps for the New York City region last week, residents were shocked to find that the number of houses and businesses in the region's flood zone had doubled since the maps were last revised, in 1986.

But it now appears that those maps might have underestimated the extent of New York's flood risk, because they don't factor in the effects of future climate change. Scientists say that by the 2080s, sea levels off the city's coast could rise by as much as five feet from melting glaciers, making storm surges more severe and causing floods much further inland than the new maps indicate.

The maps also don't incorporate data from Hurricane Sandy, which caused catastrophic flooding in the nation's financial capital. Many structures destroyed by the superstorm are not included in the newly drawn flood zones.

If future sea level rise had been taken into account, the flood zone would likely have been much larger, said Philip Orton, a physical oceanographer at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, who served as a technical reviewer on the updated maps.

"The fear is that we'll get a meter [3.3 feet] of [sea level] rise by the end of the century, potentially more," Orton said. "People are rightfully concerned. ... The New York City area isn't ready for the storm surges of today, as we learned from Sandy, let alone what is possible in the future."....

Hurricane Sandy damage in Brooklyn, shot by Jim.henderson, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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