SBU Researcher Talks Sea Level Rise in NYC
Coastal Processes & Hazards - News

Stony Brook, NY, February 11, 2011 - Stony Brook University Oceanography professor Malcom Bowman was featured in a sea level rise radio segment on WNYC (93.9 FM / 820 AM) yesterday. "Looking at the city, with the setting sun behind the Williamsburg Bridge, it's a sea of tranquility," he said. "It's hard to imagine the dangers lying ahead."

As climate change brings higher temperatures and more violent storms, he said flooding in parts of the city could become as routine as the heavy snows of this winter. We could even have "flood days," the way we now have snow days.

For more on this WNYC story, read the article (pdf) or listen to the audio file (MP3).

The Sea Grant connection ....

Over the last several years, the hypothesis of a team of New York Sea Grant-funded researchers led by Bowman has gained the interest of some decision makers and attention of media - that strategically placed storm surge barriers could protect NYC from storm damage.

New York metropolitan area increasingly at risk to storm damage

In an era of rising sea levels and potentially more powerful but also potentially fewer hurricanes, New York City and the metropolitan region may be increasingly subject to flooding. Much of the region is at a very low elevation, less than three meters above sea level, and the prospect of increased frequency of strong storms such as nor’easters and hurricanes heightens the need for local officials to place attention on the potential impacts of flooding, especially from storm surges. There are several options to protect the region’s low lying infrastructure.

Specific facilities like sewage or water treatment plants or power plants can be hardened against flooding, or sea walls or breakwaters can be built. Another option is to use storm surge barriers at strategic locations to block incoming storm surges. Would such a system work? Information about whether such barriers would actually prevent flooding would be useful for planning.

Stony Brook Storm Surge system: three choke points hold the key

A research team from the Marine Sciences Research Center at Stony Brook University tackled this question through modeling. The goal was to use existing modeling technology and methods, along with newly developed ones, to test whether storm surge barriers would protect the City from flooding.

The working hypothesis for the project team was that storm surge barriers placed at certain “choke points” (the mouth of the Arthur Kill in Perth Amboy, The Narrows, and the upper East River near Whitestone) could prevent flooding of low-lying areas in New York City and nearby New Jersey by protecting them from unusually large storm surges generated by hurricanes and nor’easters.

For more on this NYSG-funded research study, see related impact statement, "Could Barriers Protect New York City From Storm Surges?" (pdf).

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