Working together to keep today's treasures for tomorrow slide image Protecting the natural heritage of this diverse estuary slide image Promoting water quality and land preservation slide image Supporting a rich ecosystem for our local economy and quality of life slide image Managing our natural resources through consensus building slide image

News and Resources

Sandy: A freak of nature or a sign of more to come? - November 13, 2012

“Anyone who says there is not a change in weather patterns is denying reality.” These were the bold and perhaps somewhat controversial words of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in response to the devastation that Superstorm Sandy brought upon his state. Shortly afterwards, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg followed suit with the statement, “While the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of (climate change), the risk that it might be — given this week’s devastation — should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”

These are strong statements coming from globally recognized U.S. leaders. But do they bear any spark of truth as supported by scientific fact, or are they simply the reflections of an over-reacting public to a terrible, yet one-of-a-kind tragedy? And what does this all mean for Maryland’s Eastern Shore?

The short answer is that science overwhelmingly supports the statements of these New Yorkers. Scientists have been warning New York City officials for more than a decade of pending danger from events exactly as they played out in Sandy. They warned that a rise in sea levels, more frequent flooding and extreme weather patterns were putting the city’s antiquated infrastructure at risk.

Perhaps you are reading this and thinking there have always been hurricanes. What makes this one different and why should I believe it has anything to do with climate change? Take into account that three of the Top 10 highest floods at Battery Park since 1900 happened in the last 21/2 years, and that Sandy’s floodwaters were two feet higher than anything previously experienced in the history of New York. Add to this a string of devastating “derecho” storms that pummeled parts of Maryland earlier this year, the drought impacting much of the U.S. agricultural sector, along with the hottest July on record, and we are left to wonder what’s going on?

Well, no one can or is saying with 100 percent certainty that any individual hurricane or extreme weather event, including Sandy, is caused directly by climate change. But what scientists are revealing with increasing clarity is that climate change is making these events worse. Essentially, the effects of climate change took Sandy and super-charged it.

Here’s how this happened. First, we have rising sea levels (up 7 inches in the last 100 years). This equates to flooding and storm surge being worse along the coast. And the rate of sea rise is now accelerating. Next, we know warm ocean water gives energy to hurricanes. Sandy swung slowly up the coastal waters of the eastern U.S., where water temperatures are now a full 2 degrees warmer than they were 100 years ago. This contributed to Sandy’s massive size. Finally, this has been a record year for melting Arctic sea ice. It is suspected that a warmer-than-normal Arctic may have allowed a “blocking high” pressure system, usually present in the North Atlantic, to slip further south, bouncing Sandy back into the U.S. rather than allowing it to move safely off to sea.

Maryland made out well compared to the tragedy unfolding in New Jersey and New York.

We were very lucky. However, more extreme weather events are certainly on their way and we need to be prepared for the one that will not be as favorable. While scientists and world leaders go on with the business of figuring out what — if anything — can be done at a global scale, the best path forward for Delmarva is to focus on adaptation. Simply put, this means recognizing that a new reality is upon us, understanding what the probable impacts are, and adequately preparing for it.

Thoughts and ideas are welcome on how this might be best done and how we might work together on adaptation as a community.


To view article click here

Archived News

More Archived News
View Current News

U.S EPA News Region 3

Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program
Coastal Bays Program