When Hurricane Sandy hit New York last October, it was considered a freak occurrence – a “one in 700 year event”. Now weather researchers say that another superstorm hitting the region is actually less likely to happen thanks to, of all things, climate change, which is the very same driver that is increasing the intensity and number of hurricanes every year. But before you breathe a sigh of relief, that doesn’t mean that New York is completely out of the equation; researchers say that even if storms don’t hit directly, flooding can still be a major concern in the future.

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To see if the east coast would be hit by future storms, researchers from Colorado State University, Columbia University, and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory created climate models based on tripling greenhouse gases in 2100. In these models, the scientists found that storms blowing westward into the coast would be less likely. Instead, future hurricanes are more likely to steer further away offshore towards the Atlantic Ocean through a combination of winds, atmospheric conditions, and changes in the jet stream.

However, the researchers still say that those living on the east coast shouldn’t put their guard down. The study is primarily looking at the possible tracking patterns of these storms and not the intensity or frequency. In the last few years we’ve already seen warmer waters fueling larger and more frequent storms. In the current environment of these massive storm systems, coastal cities are still more at risk for storm surges even if they are not hit directly.

Even if the storms don’t come directly, the global rise of our seas is another issue New York will have to keep in mind. New York City, meanwhile, continues to bolster itself for anything with flood protection infrastructure and barrier islands (as it should).

via The Atlantic