Alongside heatstroke, storm surge is one of the deadliest aspects of climate change. And we have been able to see that for a long time. In fact, half of all deaths related to tropical weather events are from storm surges.
Now, if you don’t live in a coastal community, you may be wondering, what exactly is storm surge? Well, when a storm is raging, the winds push the water to the shoreline. This can continue for some time resulting in storm surges of over 20 feet.
For reference, when Hurricane Katrina struck the US in 2005, the storm surge reached 27.8 feet in some areas. This submerged the entire region, including complete homes and businesses. Even a small surge of just a few feet is deadly.
Unfortunately, as sea level rise and storm conditions worsen, we could see even more devastating impacts on coastal regions around the world.
Can Coastal Communities Guard Against Storm Surge?
While coastal cities and regions can guard against these surges, it is incredibly difficult with the biggest barrier being money.
One of the best defenses for these regions is to have a sea barrier. These are essentially a wall constructed to prevent large buildups of water from reaching the coast. However, their effectiveness is lowered if the sea level continues to rise.
To counter that, you would essentially need to continuously add to the wall to keep up with the new sea levels.
Another approach is to redevelop the land closest to the sea. Creating a land barrier like a park that can be flooded to ensure the safety of the region is far more ideal than building houses only to have them be destroyed and rebuilt again.
This often happens when a major storm occurs. The flooded land is bought out and used to construct infrastructure that helps prevent a similar event from reoccurring.
There is also the concept of the sponge city.
This is a city that is designed to hold more water, or to be more porous like a sponge. The water can then be used later during a drought. This design has multiple advantages and could be a real solution, but would require a significant investment.
Will It Actually Get Worse?
Obviously, storm surge exists today, so what kind of an impact will climate change have on it?
Well, one thing is clear, storms are getting worse. The wind strengths are increasing and the higher temperatures are to blame. If you remember the cause of these surges, it’s the wind pushing the water to the shoreline.
Stronger winds mean larger surges.
And so far, estimates are turning out to be on the low end. We are already seeing events linked to climate change be far more destructive and occur at much lower temperatures than first thought. And in no uncertain terms, the Earth will get warmer.
While we can’t say with 100% certainty, the evidence is pretty clear. The world needs to prepare for larger levels of storm surge.
If not, the cost of life will be high.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.