Hurricane Sandy is indubitably among the most destructive Hurricanes of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Sandy is estimated to have costed at least $70 billion in infrastructure damages, according to estimations by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A recently published study suggests that climate change actually raises Hurricane Sandy’s cost in damages by $8 Billion. By using computer modeling simulations, researchers have discovered that human caused sea level rise made the storm conditions of Hurricane Sandy much worse than what’s been previously estimated.

Its long been established that climate change has influenced Earth’s storms by raising sea level rise. Anthropogenic climate change increases the likelihood and intensity of floods. To quantify this effect, researchers (Benjamin H. Strauss, Philip M. Orton, Klaus Bittermann, Maya K. Buchanan, Daniel M. Gilford, Robert E. Kopp, Scott Kulp, Chris Massey , Hans de Moel & Sergey Vinogradov) simulated two versions of the storm and its resulting damages. Version one of the simulation depicts Hurricane Sandy as it actually occurred. Version two is a simulated scenario that would have occurred with distributions of lower sea levels in areas of attributable sea level rise.

lake coast and skyline

How Climate Change Increases Damage Costs

The results of the simulation scenarios suggest that climate change’s impact on 20th century weather and storms exacerbated Hurricane Sandy. The researchers determined that seas in 2012 were 4.1 inches (10.5 centimeters) higher than in 1900 due to climate change. This figure is deceivingly small; the increase of 4.1 inches, when distributed appropriately, can make a dramatic difference in eastern parts of the world. This effect is due to the location of ice glaciers in Greenland and Alaska- the felt rise in sea levels is usually measured on the opposite end of the globe from the central melting sources, says study co-author Bob Kopp, director of Rutgers University’s Institute of Earth, Oceans and Atmospheric Sciences.

The new study joins an emerging body of work which aims to illustrate the connections between adverse climate change and modern human activity. Anthropogenic climate change serves to supplement storms, making them appear more often and more intense. In this case, we are able to glimpse how much more costly climate change is on infrastructure and human wellbeing.

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