State to see more hurricanes, storm-related floods


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Photo by © Randall Hill / Reuters |

Horry County police officer Jeff Helfinstine patrols the edge of flood waters along Lee's Landing Circle in Conway, South Carolina October 7, 2015. REUTERS/Randall Hill


If New Jersey residents are asked what the most catastrophic storm to hit them was, they would likely respond with Hurricane Sandy. A recently published study shows Sandy-like storms might start hitting more and more often.

A joint study released by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America and run by members of seven different institutions determined heavy floods will occur more often and have a greater impact in New Jersey and surrounding areas than they did in millennia previously.

Microfossils were used to collect data on sea levels over several centuries, said Benjamin Horton, a professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences in an interview with Rutgers Today. This data was then used to create simulations on possible future events.

“A storm that occurred once in seven generations is now occurring twice in a generation,” he said.

Hurricanes are the most dangerous natural disasters that can hit the Eastern seaboard, according to the study. Sandy is the most notable event in recent times, causing $50 billion in damage and destroying more than half a million homes.

Much of the damage from the storm was actually caused by the excessive flooding, the report said. Waters rose to more than four meters above what was predicted.

Since records of storms and related floods only exist back to the late 19th century, models were used to determine how bad flooding may have been and how often floods of a certain depth hit, according to the study.

Analysis of different models showed they would lead to accurate results with simulating storm surges.

A storm surge is the depth of water in a flood that exceeds what is normally expected.

The final report said a flood that might have previously occurred once every 500 years would now happen roughly once every half-century.

This would happen both because of rising sea levels and because hurricanes themselves are changing from the storms seen in previous decades, according to the report.

While it is definite that these storms will hit the East Coast, precisely determining their locations is more difficult, according to the Rutgers Today article. Predicting these will be the next phase in the research.


Nikhilesh De

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