Deadlier storms than Sandy may hit N.J., Rutgers professor says
Deadlier storms than Superstorm Sandy are anticipated to hit New Jersey in the future as a result of a changing climate and atmospheric conditions.
The climate system is changing, causing the atmosphere to change also, said David Robinson, professor in the Department of Geography and a New Jersey state climatologist.
“The atmosphere has more energy in it in terms of warmth, and also in terms of water vapor,” Robinson said. “The warmer you make the atmosphere, the more water vapor it contains.”
A warmer atmosphere with more water vapor creates energy in the atmosphere that can cause a great storm, Robinson said.
“We are more confident that the storms will be more potent, rather then they’ll be more storms,” Robinson said.
Governments will face tough decisions when it comes to living with stronger storms, Robinson said, such as deciding which damaged buildings to fix.
“We are going to have to decide when buildings are damaged whether it is worth pouring money into fixing them,” Robinson said. “Rather than rebuild when the homes are damaged, there’s plans called Blue Acres to buy those homes, level them, and turn that area into park land.”
When Rutgers students become homeowners, Robinson said they will face the same question. Many New Jersey residents are living in hazardous zones prone to flooding from rivers and oceans.
The Raritan River, South River, Passaic River and Delaware River are prone to river flooding. Coastal areas can also be a dangerous place to live, meaning people may need to reconsider living in those areas in the future.
New Jersey is just as vulnerable to hurricanes as most other states. States such as Louisiana, parts of the Mississippi River, and Florida are even more vulnerable, as well as the Barrier islands along the East Coast.
“The sea level can rise by a foot or potentially more by the middle of this century, and a couple of feet by the end of this century,” Robinson said. “With the threat of strong storms in the future, it’s going to be a real battle”
If stronger are storms to come, it could be devastating, School of Arts and Sciences senior Michael Bandola said.
“It’s scary because many houses were destroyed and lives were ruined because of Sandy," Bandola said. "A larger storm could cause even worse destruction."
Vishal Saini, a Rutgers Business School senior, hopes New Jersey is not hit by another storm.
“If there are worse storms than Sandy in the future, I’ll be pretty upset,” Saini said. “But I will also be more prepared this time, if given a heads up.”
People need to prepare to adapt and harden infrastructure in order to be more prepared for these deadlier storms, Robinson said.
New Jersey should be better prepared, but remain cautious, Bandola said.
“I do think we are more prepared because everyone saw what happened with Sandy and it scared them so more people took safety precautions for the future,” Bandola said. “However it might not be enough if the storms are worse.”
With recent advancements in technology, Saini believes the Garden State is more prepared for a storm.
“I do think Jersey will be better prepared. Sandy was a big and unexpected hit and it really opened our eyes on what is yet to come,” Saini said. “Also with the technology nowadays hopefully it won’t damage our communities as badly.”
Climate change and global warming can also the cause of why stronger storms are happening.
“The Earth is demonstrably warming, and with that there are changes in the amount of ice locked up on land, it’s melting, and filling our oceans,” Robinson said. “A run of the mill storm will be stronger, and have more impact.”
Bandola said climate change is likely the cause of deadlier storms.
“I do think that climate change has something to do with it because it seems like storms have become more frequent and more deadly as the years go by,” Bandola said. “At the same time, the climate has gotten worse. I don’t think that’s just a coincidence.”
Christopher Bohorquez is a School of Arts and Sciences junior. He is a staff writer for The Daily Targum.