Human-caused climate change was responsible for $8 billion of the damage inflicted by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, new research published Tuesday in Nature found. The additional flooding attributed to melting glaciers and ice sheets affected an additional 71,000 people, and just the climate-caused damage on its own would have been the fourth-most expensive weather-related disaster of last year’s record-shattering 22 billion-dollar disasters.
Researchers calculated sea levels around New York City were almost 4 inches higher, and that the storm surge flooding caused by those extra four inches accounted for a full 13% of the storm’s overall monetary damage with dramatically higher damage caused by every additional inch. In some places the additional flooding caused massive damage that would have otherwise been completely avoided, like basement apartments at the outer edge of where it flooded. Elsewhere, just a few inches made a big difference, like where flood waters rose just above a home’s lowest electrical outlet, requiring extensive repairs.
Overall, the study found an additional 36,000 homes were flooded because of climate change. “I often hear people say when we’re trying to help them adapt to increasing coastal flooding, ‘Well, it’s not going to happen in my lifetime. The sea-level rise won’t happen in my lifetime,’ ” Philip Orton, a co-author of the study, told NPR. “But it’s already happening to people. It’s already here.” (AP, NPR, Reuters, Bloomberg $, Grist, AFP, The Verge, Scientific American, CBS, Reuters, The Guardian, AccuWeather, The Hill; Climate Signals background: Hurricane Sandy, Storm surge increase, Sea level rise)