Climate change-triggered sea level rise added $8 billion in damage during 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, one of nation’s costliest weather disasters, a new study said. The study is co-authored by Climate Impact Lab co-director Bob Kopp.
Economic damages from Hurricane Sandy attributable to sea level rise caused by anthropogenic climate change
Strauss, B.H., Orton, P.M., Bittermann, K. et al. Economic damages from Hurricane Sandy attributable to sea level rise caused by anthropogenic climate change. Nat Commun 12, 2720 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-22838-1
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.