04/01/2007 - The animation above, provided by the National Environmental Trust (now the Pew Environment Group), shows the flooding we can anticipate in major cities as global warming raises sea levels and leads to stronger hurricanes. They show that as sea levels rise, even relatively weak storms will be able to do a great deal of damage. See below for more resources and a discussion of the role of global warming in strengthening hurricanes. For more on the methodology of the animations, see below.
Please note there is no sound with the animation.
Washington, DC: Animation shows flooding that would occur as the result the storm surge from a Category II Hurricane, combined with a projected sea level rise of 24 inches anticipated over the coming century. According to the National Hurricane Center, from 1900-1996 the Atlantic coast of the U.S. between Florida and Maine has experienced 78 hurricane strikes of Category II or greater. Animation is available in Windows Media format, 5 MB.
Methodology: These three-dimensional animations were produced by Applied Science Associates of Narragansett, RI, a marine and freshwater environmental modeling company. Future flood elevations were determined by combining sea level rise predictions with storm surge elevations. Sea level rise estimates were made on a model from the Canadian Climate Center. Storm surge elevation estimates were based on data from the National Ocean Service and the National Weather Service's Storm Surge Group at the National Hurricane Center. The flooding was modeled by combining data from the National Elevation Dataset with tools from the Environmental Systems Research Institute. Google's GoogleEarth 3D visualization system was used to drape the flooding over elevation data and combine with 3D representations of buildings.
Is Global Warming Playing a Role?
In the wake of last year's destructive hurricanes, scientists are pointing to the fact that global warming is making storms stronger. While they cannot link a particular storm to climate change, if Katrina and Rita are an indication, warmer temperatures will increasingly make storms more powerful and sea-level rise associated with global warming will increase coastal flooding during hurricanes. Recent trends are bearing out the climate scientists' predictions: the nine years from 1995 through 2003 marked the busiest, most intense nine-year storm period on record, based on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's hurricane season index. The so-called Accumulated Cyclone Energy index for those nine years has averaged 139.6. That's about 50 percent higher than the 54-year average of 93.2 from 1950 through 2003 (Knight Ridder Newspapers, "Frances, Ivan part of record-setting period for storms," September 9, 2004).
This trend continued through the 2005 season. 2005 will go down as a record breaking Atlantic Hurricane season not only for a record number of storms and hurricanes, but for breaking many other records. A record was broken as early as July when there were five named storms. There were nine hurricanes prior to September 30, 2005. The last time there were nine or more hurricanes before September 30th was in 1893 when there were 10 hurricanes. By the end of October 31st there were 13 hurricanes recorded in the 2005 hurricane season with seven of these becoming major hurricanes. There were even two tropical storms in November — Tropical Storms Gamma and Delta.