As Weather Worsens, Stevens’ World-Class Forecasting Helps Communities Predict and Prepare
Some neighborhoods in the New York metro area will begin flooding once or twice monthly as soon as in the next few decades. A few could go underwater as soon as 80 years from now.
Cities and coastal communities and cities such as those ravaged by hurricanes Sandy, Katrina, Harvey and Maria will be under the gun more than ever. For low-lying coastal cities like Miami and New York, at least partial inundation is all but inevitable.
That’s why Stevens research is helping city, regional and federal officials as they prepare for rising tides and stronger storms in the near future.
“Sea level rise is accelerating, including ice cap melting,” explains Stevens professor Philip Orton. “The worst case, we found, is now a nearly ten-foot rise in the average sea level in the metro NYC in just 80 years. If that scenario came to pass, daily high tides would match Hurricane Sandy’s flooding. We’re talking flooded streets, homes, high-traffic expressways and boulevards, subways.”
Stevens’ Davidson Laboratory has long been a national leader at forecasting — and warning of — storm-driven floods. The Stevens Estuarine and Coastal Ocean Model (sECOM), a mathematical model considered among the best in the world at modeling urban-ocean environments, forms the backbone of the university’s signature forecast and visualization tools, NYHOPS and SFAS.
The lab has supplied forecasts for the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ) and street-by-street flood and storm-surge forecasting maps for New York City planners. Hoboken city officials access Stevens data daily.
“The Stevens Flood Advisory System is the first piece of information I check in the morning,” says Caleb Stratton, chief resilience officer for the City of Hoboken. “Accurate records and projections of surge allow us to escalate our emergency operations in real time, and make informed decisions about the resources and communications that need to be shared with the community.”
Davidson Lab researchers have also built tools, models and warning systems for New Jersey Transit (NJT); produced visualizations of climate change-driven floods for the city of Philadelphia; modeled long-term sea level rise on Jamaica Bay, surrounding JFK Airport; and studied the future of the Hudson River flood plain.