Report: Hudson County is the champ in projected climate change damages

Study compares statewide tidal flood and storm damages to those in 1980, looks ahead to 2050

Hoboken in the wake of Hurricane Sandy
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Hoboken in the wake of Hurricane Sandy

According to the independent research group The Rhodium Group, working in conjunction with researchers from Rutgers University, the University of California, and the University of Chicago, Hudson County will see more annual damages related to hurricane flooding than any other county in the state, thanks to climate change.

The report was released this month, which marks seven years since Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the Garden State like no other storm in recorded history.

The group suggests that damage in New Jersey from a combination of sea level rise, hurricane flooding, and hurricane-force winds has more than doubled over the past four decades.

As temperatures continue to rise, so do sea levels due to thermal expansion. Oceanic surface temperature in waters off the coast of the northeastern United States have risen more quickly than 99 percent of the global area, the report stated. This puts Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states at greater risk, since hurricane wind speeds increase depending on the ocean’s surface temperature, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Projected losses include those caused by damage to buildings, the associated loss in property value, and the associated loss in economic output.

It’s only getting worse

That trajectory, researchers said, is likely to continue. By 2050, the group estimates that all associated costs related to sea level rise and changes in storm patterns will reach between $1.3 billion and $3.1 billion annually across the state.

“While [New Jersey] communities have a long history of weathering storms and flooding, sea level rise and changes in hurricane activity create new risks,” the report said. “Future reductions in global emissions would substantially reduce these hazards in the second half of the century, but that alone will not be enough. Investing in more resilient design and infrastructure pays off in safeguarding against future property destruction.”

In the 1980s, non-coastal homes had a net chance of experiencing hurricane damage about once every 200 years, but now, a steadily increasing number of homes should be expected to sustain hurricane-caused damages once every 30 years.

It’s estimated that Hudson County is experiencing $660 million more in annual hurricane-caused damages than 40 years ago. Bergen County, the most populous in the state, was the runnerup.

“In absolute terms, Hudson County has experienced the greatest increase in risk, with average losses likely $300 million to $660 million higher today than they would have been in the climate of the 1980s,” the report said. “Bergen County, the most populous in the state, has likely experienced a $148 million to $254 million increase in average annual loss.”

In Hudson County, researchers predicted that 17,087 more buildings will sustain hurricane damage about once every 30 years by mid-century. Across the state, researchers project that somewhere between 73,000 and 113,000 buildings will fall within that same risk level.

In terms of the greatest damages sustained by tidal flooding, not flooding caused by storms, less populous coastal counties are at the greatest risk. The greatest number of buildings at risk of increased tidal flooding goes to Ocean County. Cape May County should expect to see the greatest risk increase in total building value, the report said.

The outlook of how New Jersey will fare in future storms is grim, and flood mitigation is a worthwhile enterprise, the report concludes. Based on data surrounding federal grants, the report suggests that every dollar spent on resiliency saves more than $6 in future disaster recovery.

For updates on this and more stories check hudsonreporter.com or follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at mikem@hudsonreporter.com.