If we want to understand the full picture of climate-fueled flood risk to New York City, we can’t just look at rainfall.

by Arielle Samuelson, Heated

If you read the news or scrolled social media this weekend, you probably heard that New York City experienced record-breaking rainfall and catastrophic flooding on Friday.

You probably heard that LaGuardia Airport shut down a terminal; that subway lines transformed into cesspools; that a whirlpool formed in Brooklyn; that a sea lion escaped its enclosure in the Central Park Zoo.

flooding on a large street in nyc

But what you may not have heard, as I hadn’t before yesterday, is that scientists who study coastal flooding actually consider Friday’s flood to be “mild.” That’s because, while the rainfall itself was record-breaking—more than 8.65 inches fell at JFK airport—the coastal flood level was only two feet above high tide.

That level of flooding is classified as an annual flood, said Kelly Van Baalen, project manager of Climate Central’s sea level rise team. “The numbers on the rainfall are a piece of it, but you would expect coastal flooding of this sort every year,” she said.

Read More