Study: Climate Change Added $8 Billion to Sandy’s Damages

By Seth Borenstein / AP News.

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.

During Sandy — a late fall freak combination of a hurricane and other storms that struck New York and surrounding areas — the seas were almost 4 inches (9.6 centimeters) higher because of human-caused climate change, according to a study in Tuesday’s journal Nature Communications. Researchers calculated that those few inches caused 13% of Sandy’s overall $62.5 billion damage, flooding 36,000 more homes. Sandy killed 147 people, 72 in the eastern United States, according to the National Hurricane Center.

While past studies have determined global warming was a factor in extreme weather events, either by increasing the chance of them happening or making them stronger, the new study is one of the first to tally the human costs of climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas.

“In most cases, flooding was made worse by sea level rise and we show how much worse,” said study co-author Philip Orton, a physical oceanographer at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.

Orton said there were places, such as basement apartments in the New York City area, filled with water that would have been dry without human-caused sea level rise.

“There are people who experienced significant losses from Hurricane Sandy who would not have experienced those losses but for climate change,” said study lead author Ben Strauss, a sea level scientist who is CEO of Climate Central, a science-and-journalism venture.