Tropical Storm Isaias Crawling Up the East Coast, Could Make Landfall In the Carolinas Overnight

Hurricane Isaias Forecast    Graphic: Weather.com

Tropical Storm Isaias is slowly moving up the Eastern seaboard today, with its biggest risk for damage now in the Carolinas, as the storm remained offshore of Florida causing flooding due to storm surge rather than wind damage.  According to Weather.com, ‘Tropical storm warnings now extend as far north as Ocracoke Island, North Carolina. Tropical storm watches have been extended as far north as Watch Hill, Rhode Island, including Long Island, Long Island Sound, Delaware Bay, the Tidal Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. A watch means the respective conditions are possible within the next 48 hours. A warning means those conditions are expected within 36 hours.”  It will be a very wet few days for the East Coast with heavy rains and storm surge, and inland flooding all the way up to New England.

Why This Matters:  A new study out last week found what we are seeing play out with Tropical Storm Isaias.  As the sea level rises, powerful coastal storms, even ones that do not reach hurricane strength, will lead to extreme high tides reaching farther inland and flooding caused by excessive rain, and will inevitably put tens of millions more people and trillions of dollars in assets worldwide at risk of periodic flooding.

Storm Forecast

Weather.com is predicting that Isaias will “maintain its intensity as a strong tropical storm or may tick up a bit to briefly regain hurricane status while tracking from near eastern Florida to near or off the Southeast coast through Monday. The circulation center should make landfall Monday night or early Tuesday in South Carolina or southeast North Carolina. From there, the storm will sweep quickly northeastward near parts of the Northeast Seaboard to as far north as New England Tuesday into early Wednesday.” Some flooding is expected in Charleston, SC tonight because of storm surge and the full moon making it a king tide.  Note from the map how far inland the worst of the flooding reaches.  Isaias is the ninth named storm of the season — usually, the ninth named tropical system does not hit the east coast until early October, so we are now two months ahead of the average year.

Study Predicts More and More Flooding With Strong Storms

The New York Times reported that the new study projects that many more areas will see much greater damage from flooding than previously thought.  According to the authors, in the U.S. the risks are higher than previously thought in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland in the United States, and elsewhere in the world, northern France and northern Germany, the southeastern coast of China, Bangladesh, and the Indian states of West Bengal and Gujarat are at elevated risk.  And the damage will be expensive — “The study found that people currently living in areas at risk from a 3-foot rise in sea levels owned $14 trillion in assets in 2011, an amount equal to 20 percent of global G.D.P. that year,” The New York Times explained.  As a result, we need to start planning for this type of flooding now because it will take years to adapt in coastal areas — particularly the big cities like Miami, New York, and Boston.  Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University who was not involved in the study told The Times that the world has now warmed so much that significant sea-level rise by 2050 is assured no matter what happens with greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

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