As New Yorkers grimly reflect on Superstorm Sandy’s one-year anniversary today, climate experts are forecasting even darker days ahead. Sandy, which flattened whole communities, cost the city over $65 billion in damages and claimed over 159 lives. While some areas are still struggling to recover, scientists are already warning residents that Superstorm Sandy is merely a taste of more extreme weather to come.
For the past two decades, Nicholas K. Coch, a professor of coastal geology at Queens College, has been warning of a destructive hurricane that would batter the East Coast. A self-proclaimed “forensic hurricanologist,” Coch reminds us that by the time Sandy made landfall, it was but a post-tropical cyclone. “Sandy wasn’t the big one,” he says, and adds that sooner or later, a stronger hurricane will beset the city.
Coch’s fears of a devastating storm increased after he identified the city’s numerous vulnerabilities to extreme weather. “New York is a water city,” Coch says. Because it’s built above bedrock, much of the rain that falls on the city isn’t infiltrated into the ground. Instead, the surface water that collects leads to dangerous flash floods, a problem compounded by storm surges caused by extreme weather.
This summer, Mayor Bloomberg unveiled his $20 billion climate resiliency plan to fortify the city against future superstorms. Though these changes are “good first steps,” Coch warns that they will not be enough to protect the city against future storms, which are predicted to be even bigger and deadlier than Sandy.