NEW YORK, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- The destruction caused by superstorm Sandy in the U.S. Northeast shouldn't have been a surprise and may be a sign of things to come, climate scientists say.
The combination of melting arctic ice, rising sea levels, the warming atmosphere and changes to weather patterns could lead to a future in which the world experiences storms and tidal surges of unprecedented intensity, they said.
Climate change means eastern seaboard cities like New York and others are "highly vulnerable," geoscience Professor Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University told CNN.
"(Superstorm) Sandy is a foretaste of things to come," he predicted, "from the combination of bigger storms and higher sea levels, both of which contribute equally to the growing threat."
Ben Orlove, director of the master's program in Climate and Society at Columbia University, agreed.
"Storms and tides are natural, but sea level rise is not. As it continues, New York grows more vulnerable."
Oppenheimer recently modeled the effect of climate change on storm surges for the New York area.
In a paper published in the journal Nature in February, he and his three research colleagues said the "storm of the century" could become the storm of "every twenty years or less."