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The Link Between Extreme Storms and Climate Action: A Study of Coastal New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut

Presentation Date
Thursday, December 15, 2022 at 2:15pm - Thursday, December 15, 2022 at 2:25pm
Online Only



Climate change is expected to bring increasingly intense tropical cyclones (TCs), which will manifest diverse and heterogeneous threats for local communities. These threats demand local adaptation, but climate action at this level remains unstandardized, underfunded, and uneven across the country. As a result, some communities are far more prepared for coming hazards than others. There is evidence that witnessing hazardous weather events or climatic extremes can influence someone's opinion of climate change, which may contribute to this disparate adaptation. The northeast coast of the US has seen numerous severe TCs in the last decade, many of which left lasting impressions on the affected communities. But there has been limited investigation into whether this effect manifests in local climate adaptation policy. This study aims to understand the relationship between extreme precipitation from TCs in the most recent decade and the adoption of local climate adaptation measures. We accomplish this by evaluating the climate adaptation plans of coastal municipalities from NY, NJ, and CT and assessing their scientific fact base, acknowledgement of climate threats, and adaptation commitments. We then compare those climate action plan scores to the incidence of extreme precipitation from TCs from 2010 to 2021, based on climatologies of precipitation derived from the PERSIANN-CDR dataset. Preliminary results show that less than one third of surveyed communities have published a dedicated climate action plan. However, two thirds of these action plans cite destructive tropical cyclones as motivation for their adaptation measures. This suggests that most communities have not begun adapting to climate change on the local level, but that future storms may act as an impetus to motivate that action. This kind of reactive adaptation is far from ideal, and results in higher costs overall. Understanding what factors motivate adaptation could help to prevent casualties and costly disasters.

Funding Program Area(s)