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$8.1 billion in Hurricane Sandy damages linked to human activity

Experts at the Stevens Institute of Technology have investigated the economic impacts of Hurricane Sandy that can be tied to human-caused climate change. The researchers found that sea level rise is responsible for $8.1 billion in damages, and caused an additional 71,000 people and 36,000 homes to be exposed to flooding from the hurricane.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck the northeast U.S. coast, causing destruction that is estimated at $62.7 billion. The new study links 13 percent of the storm’s damages to human-induced sea level rise.

“This study is the first to isolate the human-contributed sea level rise effects during a coastal storm and put a dollar sign to the additional flooding damage,” said study co-author Professor Philip Orton. 

“With coastal flooding increasingly impacting communities and causing widespread destruction, pinpointing the financial toll and the lives affected by climate change will hopefully add urgency to our efforts to reduce it.”

According to the research, human-caused climate warming had raised the sea level in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut by roughly four inches over the century preceding the storm. This empowered the storm to penetrate further inland, increasing the amount of flooding and damage to structures.

The researchers hope to apply the approach used in this study to investigate the costs of human-caused sea level rise in other regions, such as the Gulf of Mexico.

“If we were to calculate the costs of climate change across all flooding events – both nuisance floods and those caused by extreme storm events – that figure would be enormous,” said Orton. “It would provide clarity on the severe damage we are inflicting on ourselves and our planet.”

The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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