Sea Level Rise Caused an Extra $8 Billion in Losses During Hurricane Sandy

A new study estimates that roughly $8 billion of the $63 billion in damages caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 can be attributed to sea level rise of just four inches caused by global warming.

The study, published in Nature Communications, used sea-level rise data and flood simulations to determine how much climate change contributed to losses during Sandy. The research — conducted by Climate Central, Rutgers University, and the Stevens Institute of Technology — concluded that the four inches of sea level rise enabled the hurricane’s storm surge to extend farther inland and deepen flood levels everywhere, increasing damage to submerged structures. Because of higher waters, the storm surge reached 36,000 more homes and affected 71,000 more people, according to Climate Central.

The four inches of sea level rise have occurred over the past century, although most of that increase has come in recent decades. Many scientists project that melting ice sheets and glaciers could cause sea levels to rise an additional three to six feet by 2100, causing vastly more damage to coastal areas during hurricanes and severe storms.

The study estimated that the additional Sandy losses attributable to sea level rise ranged from $4.7 billion to $14 billion, with a median of $8.1 billion.