Climate change drives bigger floods during hurricanes When hurricanes cause both extreme high tides and heavy rains, devastating floods ensue. Such storms will get much more frequent by the end of the century, according to a new study.

A new study predicts a huge increase in catastrophic hurricanes for the northeastern U.S.

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Extreme flooding from hurricanes will increase dramatically in the coming decades. That's according to a new study that looks at how climate change affects storms. NPR's Rebecca Hersher reports people living from Texas to New England are in the crosshairs.

REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: Floods are consistently the most dangerous and expensive hurricane hazard, and climate change is making it worse, says Chad Berginnis. He runs the Association of State Floodplain Managers.

CHAD BERGINNIS: You have this triple whammy of more rainfall events, juiced hurricanes that will lead to stronger and more significant storm surge and then sea level rise.

HERSHER: So heavy rain and more ocean water being pushed into neighborhoods. In the past, it was very rare for hurricanes to bring both heavy rain and super-high tides. The new study finds the future will be full of storms like that.

NING LIN: In the future climate, they will become frequent events that we definitely have to prepare for.

HERSHER: Ning Lin of Princeton University is an author of the study published in Nature Climate Change. She and her colleagues predict that hurricanes with so-called compound flooding from extreme rain and extreme storm surge will be more than 100 times more likely by the end of the century in the Northeast. The Gulf Coast will also see a dramatic increase in these storms. Lin says local planners should take note.

LIN: Our infrastructure system will stand there for 50 years or 100 years or longer.

HERSHER: For example, if roads, power plants and drainage pipes aren't built for the storms of the future, they won't survive.

BERGINNIS: A study like this is a reminder that we can't do things the same old way.

HERSHER: Berginnis says many leaders in coastal cities and towns are already thinking about how to prepare for the storms of the future. It means changing how and where we build.

BERGINNIS: For instance, we can't replace infrastructure in kind - you know, the same size, the same location, the same way - that we need to be intentional in building resilience into those decisions.

HERSHER: He says in the past, city planners often looked 20 years into the future. Climate change requires a longer view because what's built today will be tested later this century.

Rebecca Hersher, NPR News.


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