In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast of the United States, creating widespread coastal flooding and over $60 billion in reported economic damage. The potential influence of climate change on the storm itself has been debated, but sea level rise driven by anthropogenic climate change more clearly contributed to damages. To quantify this effect, here we simulate water levels and damage both as they occurred and as they would have occurred across a range of lower sea levels corresponding to different estimates of attributable sea level rise. We find that approximately $8.1B ($4.7B–$14.0B, 5th–95th percentiles) of Sandy’s damages are attributable to climate-mediated anthropogenic sea level rise, as is extension of the flood area to affect 71 (40–131) thousand additional people. The same general approach demonstrated here may be applied to impact assessments for other past and future coastal storms.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Benjamin Strauss, Scott Kulp, and Maya Buchanan were supported by the Kresge Foundation and the George and Estelle Sands Foundation. Benjamin Strauss, Robert Kopp, Scott Kulp, and Daniel Gilford were supported by NSF grant ICER-1663807 and NASA grant 80NSSC17K0698. Philip Orton was supported by NOAA award NA15OAR4310147 and NSF award 1855037. We thank Andrew Cox at Oceanweather Inc. for providing their meteorological reanalysis data for Hurricane Sandy, Chris Schubert, and Tom Suro (USGS) for providing data and interpretive guidance concerning maximum flood elevations. We thank Michael Oppenheimer for thoughtful comments on the manuscript. We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modeling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modeling groups (listed in Supplementary Table 5) for producing and making available their model output. For CMIP, the U.S. DOE’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support and led the development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals.
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