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Sea level rise means small storms may inflict hurricane-like flooding

Oct. 18, 2013 at 4:52 PM   |   Comments

MEDFORD, Mass., Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Rising sea levels mean the flood damage caused in New York and New Jersey by Hurricane Sandy could occur in the future by smaller storms, geologists say.

"Rising sea levels exacerbate flooding," Tufts University geologist Andrew Kemp says. "As sea level rises, smaller and weaker storms will cause flood damage."

Kemp has been researching sea-level change and flooding occurring in seven historically damaging hurricanes in New York since 1788, a Tufts release said Friday.

Using sediment cores from salt-marshes on Barnegat Bay in northern New Jersey, a research team led by Kemp has been able to reconstruct sea-level changes in the last 225 years.

Rising sea levels are the result of two factors, the researchers said, a natural sinking of land called glacio-isostatic adjustment, and the melting of the ice-covered terrain of Greenland and Antarctic combined with the thermal expansion of ocean waters.

The end result is the possibility storms less powerful than Sandy could inflict serious damage, Kemp said.

"It's like playing basketball and raising the level of the court so that shorter and shorter people can dunk," he said. "It makes low-lying property and infrastructure more vulnerable at a time when developers are pumping money into coastal cities and towns."

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