Ten years after Sandy, the next big storm is ‘predictable and unpredictable’

Oct. 28—GROTON — The direct impact of climate change came a decade ago with Super Hurricane Sandy, presaging the kind of recurring destruction that state environmental experts say cannot be reversed, only attenuated.

Jim O’Donnell, executive director of the Connecticut Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaptation (CIRC) and professor of marine science at the University of Connecticut, said storms will remain more impactful in the future due to rising sea levels. of the sea.

The higher the sea level, the more flooding there will be. “And that’s pretty predictable,” he told IARC conference attendees of the progress made in the ten years since Sandy struck.

As the oceans absorb more heat due to the sun’s energy being trapped by greenhouse gases, sea temperatures and sea levels rise.

UCONN President Radenka Maric recalled in a video message the damage caused by Sandy across the state: five deaths, hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and a power outage for more than 650,000 customers .

“Ten years ago, the reality of climate change in Connecticut became impossible to ignore any longer,” she said.

According to O’Donnell, the goal must now be to ensure that the damage does not become as severe as some experts predict.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report released earlier this year predicted a rise of 10 to 12 inches by 2050. IARC guidelines recommend communities plan for a 20-foot rise in the same time frame. .

“Hopefully it will be less than that by 2050, but it’s unlikely to be less than that by 2100,” he said.

O’Donnell cited models predicting a rise of over a meter by 2100. This kind of damage would devastate “every coastal community, all the time”. He described the impact as unimaginable.

“Superstorm Sandy in Connecticut: Progress and Challenges After Ten Years,” took place Friday morning at the Branford House on UCONN’s Avery Point campus. Speakers included members of state agencies responsible for energy, the environment and housing. There were academics, local leaders and a sitting senator making a campaign season jaunt to eastern Connecticut.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, arrived from an offshore wind update and mini exhibit at the Mystic Marriott. He touted New London’s State Pier, which is a staging ground for the offshore wind industry, as an example of Connecticut taking the lead in green technology.

“Of course, that kind of resilience is at the heart of what we need,” he said.

Blumenthal cited a law enacted this summer to fight inflation through climate change and health initiatives. It has earmarked $375 billion for clean energy incentives in areas such as wind and solar power, as well as $50 billion in resilience investments to protect communities from extreme weather.

“I can tell you that the climate change efforts passed by Congress in August were a minor political miracle, maybe a major one,” he said.

The Senate vote was a tiebreaker decided by Vice President Kamala Harris.

“That’s how close we are in this country in terms of the political will to do what we have to,” he said.

State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Katie Dykes emphasized the importance of collaboration, research, and data to educate people about climate change.

CIRC was created in the wake of Sandy as a partnership between UCONN and DEEP to help coastal communities better adapt to climate change and make infrastructure more resilient.

Dykes said the most productive conversations with local leaders take place when there is specific information about how sea level rise and resulting flooding will affect that particular town or city – and what can be done about it.

She described the IARC data as “actionable” information in preparation “for this next predictable and unpredictable storm event”.

e.regan@theday.com

In the images below, drag the interactive handle left and right to see current flood conditions compared to the amount of land that could be underwater in 2050 based on models from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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