Terms like “100-year-flood” and the protection approach that goes with them might need to be reevaluated in a warming world where researchers predict more extreme weather events, says Steven Wright, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Michigan.
Wright, who studies coastal hydraulics, explains how our risk assessment approach looks backward, rather than ahead. Yet, three of New York City’s worst floods have occurred in just the past two years. He draws comparisons between hurricanes Irene and Sandy. Irene’s storm surge just crossed the barrier walls, at 4 feet above normal levels, whereas Sandy overtook them on a much greater scale, at nearly 14 feet above sea level.
ABOUT THE PROFESSOR: Steven Wright is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan College of Engineering. He studies coastal hydraulics, which involves measuring waves and water behavior, which helps planners and engineers design coastal barrier structures.