Hurricane Sandy caused an ‘extra $8bn’ damage due to human-caused sea level rise

A scientist who was not included in the research study informs Carbon Brief that the research study is “unique” for concentrating on water level increase rather than frequency or rainfall amount, as attribution studies for storms typically do. He adds that the approach “generates a new perspective” on attributing the influence of environment change on hurricanes.

Cyclone Sandy struck the US east coast in October 2012, causing some $60bn of economic damage. The study finds that environment change triggered around 10cm of seaside sea level rise in the location over the preceding century, which enabled the hurricane-driven storm rise to impact 71,000 extra people, adding $8bn in damages.

More than $8bn of the damage triggered by Typhoon Sandy in 2012 was due to the increase in sea levels triggered by human-caused climate modification, according to brand-new research study.

The research study, released in Nature Communications, provides a “conservative” estimate of the damage brought on by environment modification, the lead author says, because it only thinks about the impact of climate change on water level increase. The complete level of the influence of environment modification on Hurricane Sandy might be bigger, he adds.

The best storm

In 2012, an effective “tropical-extratropical hybrid” storm called Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of the US. Sandy was one of the most harmful typhoons ever to make landfall in the US at the time. In the extensive media coverage of the occasion that followed, numerous called it a “superstorm”.

Aerial views of the damage triggered by Hurricane Sandy to the New Jersey coast. Credit: Archive Image/ Alamy Stock Photo.

The flood reached the highest level recorded in at least 300 years, according to professionals. This is, in part, because the baseline sea level was currently high when the hurricane hit– due to a mix of the local high tide and environment change-driven sea level rise, according to the new study.

Overall, the typhoon eliminated 53 people and caused an approximated $60bn in damages. Dr Benjamin Strauss, the CEO and chief researcher at Climate Central, is the lead author of the study. He tells Carbon Brief that throughout the typhoon, “all the components lined up for practically the worst possible damage”.

Sandy followed a “near-worst case storm track”, according to the research study– turning all of a sudden towards New York city at the last minute. When it approached the coast, the cyclone drove an abrupt rise in water level, known as a “storm surge”, which sent water flooding into the New York city.

Dr Friederike Otto– associate director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, who was not associated with the study– tells Carbon Brief that three elements of hurricanes are crucial to just how much damage they cause:

” There are three elements of a tropical cyclone that cause damage– the wind speed, the rainfall associated with the storm and the cyclone surge … Of course, how much damage each of these three elements cause is really various from cyclone to cyclone. Hagibis hitting Tokyo in 2019 it was primarily rain. For Sandy, much of the damage was from the storm surge.”

Throughout Hurricane Sandy, the vast bulk of economic damages was because of flooding, while only 0.01% of the damage came from high wind speeds. This makes Sandy “a perfect case research study” for focusing on the damage from human-driven water level increase, Strauss informs Carbon Brief.

This suggests the analysis is presenting “conservative, low-end” quote of the effect of climate change on damages from Sandy, Strauss says:

” We didnt take a look at the entire of Sandy, so we truly see our estimate as a conservative, low-end estimate. We didnt evaluate whether climate change made Sandy stronger or affected its course … But we isolated the effect of the higher starting sea level, whichs simply something we can stand on– its extremely rock strong bedrock for understanding the impact of climate modification.”

Storm rises and sea levels

The study utilizes 2 methods to determine just how much of the global water level increase over 1900-2012 was because of environment change– a detailed literature search of past research study and a modelling technique.

The authors estimate that in between 37% and 96% of the observed water level increase was due to environment change, Dr Sönke Dangendorf– an assistant professor at Old Dominion University who was not included in the research study– tells Carbon Brief. He includes that this quote is “consistent with earlier work utilizing official and statistical detection and attribution methods”.

The plot on the right reveals the difference in between the historical and counterfactual worlds, suggesting just how much historic water level increase was driven by environment change.

Worldwide mean sea level increased by around 18cm because 1900. This means that the coastal floods brought on by Sandy were beginning from a higher standard than they were a century back.

For the modelling method, the authors compare historic water level rise to a theoretical “counterfactual” world without climate modification. In the plot below, the figure on the left reveals observed water level rise between 1900 and 2012 and the plot in the centre shows the counterfactual situation.

Historical, counterfactual, and climate change-driven changes in worldwide mean sea level in between 1900 and 2012. HadCRUT4 observations and CMIP5 models were used. Source: Strauss et al (2021 ).

The authors use this worth to approximate human-driven sea level rise around the east coast of the US by determining the worldwide “finger print” of water level increase, Strauss tells Carbon Brief:

As the planet warms and sea levels continue to rise, coastal floods are likely to get more severe. Christidis states that a great extension to the work would, therefore, be to “think about future risks under various scenarios”.

Attribution studies of storms tend to concentrate on factors such as storm size, frequency and rainfall quantity. This work represents something new, according to Dr Nikos Christidis from the UK Met Office, who was not included in the research study:.

” We know that a considerable portion of that water level rise is straight related to greenhouse gas requiring of the environment system, although we can not give a precise number.”.

Estimated economic damage from flooding of 4cm (left), 10cm (middle) and 20cm (right). Source: Strauss et al (2021 ).

Strauss, B. H et al. (2021) Economic damages from Hurricane Sandy attributable to water level rise triggered by anthropogenic environment change, Nature Communications, doi: 10.1038/ s41467-021-22838-1.

As a main quote, the authors discover that 10.5 cm of international sea level increase and 9.6 cm of New York-specific sea level rise are due to environment modification. Using this price quote, they discover that 13%– or $8.1 bn (₤ 5.7 bn)– of the damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy was solely due to the extra flooding triggered by environment change-driven water level increase, which the greater water level allowed the floodwater to reach 71,000 additional individuals..

Strauss includes that damages do not increase linearly with sea level rise, implying that “if you double depth you more than double damage for a great deal of structure types”. To provide an example, he compares the damages from Hurricane Sandy to those of Hurricane Irene the previous year:.

Dr Matt Palmer from the UK Met Office, who was not included in the study, tells Carbon Brief that the research study is “pioneering”, along with “an essential action forward in enhanced understanding of the financial and social expenses connected with anthropogenic sea level rise, which is required to help notify climate policy and seaside management”.

Prof Peter Stott– head of climate tracking and attribution at the UK Met Office who was likewise not associated with the research study– informs Carbon Brief that this is an “crucial research study”, as it thinks about costs that are “often not fully taken account of in conventional financial assessments of the expenses of environment change”.

In 2012, an effective “tropical-extratropical hybrid” storm called Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast of the US. Sandy was one of the most damaging hurricanes ever to make landfall in the United States at the time. Dr Benjamin Strauss, the CEO and chief researcher at Climate Central, is the lead author of the study. Historical, counterfactual, and climate change-driven changes in international mean sea level in between 1900 and 2012. And were talking about roughly 10cm of attributable sea level increase triggering more than 10% of the financial damages.

Dangendorf informs Carbon Brief that, to his understanding, this study is “the very first time such a technique to estimate the human imprint on Hurricane Sandy due to increasing water level,” including that the study is “a quite needed contribution to the literature”.

And were talking about roughly 10cm of attributable sea level rise causing more than 10% of the economic damages. Hurricane Irene brought water to about 150cm above that high tide line and triggered basically no economic damage.

” The modification in the water surface area level comes from several different elements, and each component has a sort of international finger print to it– where it is triggering more water level increase in some locations, and less in other places. 2 of the three biggest elements are melting glaciers and melting of Greenland, and for both of those theres less water level rise at New York than the global average.”

Cyclone Sandy triggered an additional $8bn damage due to human-caused water level rise.

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Dangendorf says that the quote of the environment change-driven contribution to international water level rise is “very robust”, adding that the authors have actually “done an incredible effort in using different techniques and accounting for the unpredictabilities”.

He adds that the attribution of New York-specific sea level increase is “a bit less robust, as there havent been any official detection and attribution research studies on regional sea level change in the literature”, noting that it produces a “conservative” price quote..

Human-driven sea level increase triggered Hurricane Sandy to flood 36,000 extra homes.

They then use hydrodynamic designs to imitate Sandys flood under different “scenarios”, broadly representing the 5th, 95th and 50th percentiles of their quotes of the human impact on sea level rise. The maps below program 3 various flooding scenarios and the economic damages that they would trigger.

He notes that there is still uncertainty in associating sea level rise to human-driven environment modification:.

However, he highlights that the high unpredictability in sea level attribution “equates straight into tens of billions of dollars worth of damage”. He likewise states it is “worth noting” that other analyses of storms have actually discovered higher costs from climate modification– for instance, a 2020 analysis of Hurricane Harvey, which approximates that $67bn of the total $90bn expense of that cyclone might be blamed on anthropogenic climate modification.

The maps on the left, middle and ideal respectively show estimated damages for human-driven water level rise of 4cm, 10cm and 20cm. Darker colours indicate greater economic damage, determined in countless dollars.

” The study is distinct compared to other attribution analyses of cyclones and tropical storms, as it focuses on the result of water level increase … Their method brings in a brand-new point of view on attribution of typhoons and of this kind of hybrid storms, as this appears to be better for the event under consideration and the attribution of associated damage.”.