Coping with Higher Sea Levels and Increased Coastal Flooding in New York City

Part of the Climate Change Management book series (CCM)


The 837 km New York City shoreline is lined by significant economic assets and dense population vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal flooding. After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, New York City developed a comprehensive plan to mitigate future climate risks, drawing upon the scientific expertise of the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC), a special advisory group comprised of university and private-sector experts. This paper highlights current NPCC findings regarding sea level rise and coastal flooding, with some of the City’s ongoing and planned responses. Twentieth century sea level rise in New York City (2.8 cm/decade) exceeded the global average (1.7 cm/decade), underscoring the enhanced regional risk to coastal hazards. NPCC (2015) projects future sea level rise at the Battery of 28–53 cm by the 2050s and 46–99 cm by the 2080s, relative to 2000–2004 (mid-range, 25th–75th percentile). High-end SLR estimates (90th percentile) reach 76 cm by the 2050s, and 1.9 m by 2100. Combining these projections with updated FEMA flood return period curves, assuming static flood dynamics and storm behavior, flood heights for the 100-year storm (excluding waves) attain 3.9–4.5 m (mid-range), relative to the NAVD88 tidal datum, and 4.9 m (high end) by the 2080s, up from 3.4 m in the 2000s. Flood heights with a 1% annual chance of occurrence in the 2000s increase to 2.0–5.4% (mid-range) and 12.7% per year (high-end), by the 2080s. Guided by NPCC (2013, 2015) findings, New York City has embarked on a suite of initiatives to strengthen coastal defenses, employing various approaches tailored to specific neighborhood needs. NPCC continues its collaboration with the city to investigate vulnerability to extreme climate events, including heat waves, inland floods and coastal storms. Current research entails higher-resolution neighborhood-level coastal flood mapping, changes in storm characteristics, surge height interactions with sea level rise, and stronger engagement with stakeholders and community-based organizations.


Sea level rise Coastal flooding Climate change adaptation 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Climate Systems ResearchColumbia University/NASA Goddard Institute for Space StudiesNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Stevens Institute of Technology, Davidson LaboratoryHobokenUSA

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