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Extreme Weather: Losing Cape Cod

WHRC’s "Losing Cape Cod - Saving Cape Cod" poster describes land cover changes over time, as well as the new threat to Cape Cod from sea level rise and stronger hurricanes due to climate change. Now we can look at this in light of superstorm Sandy, the hurricane that recently devastated coastal New York and New Jersey. Although Sandy was at most a Category 1 hurricane, its effects, particularly from flooding, were much more destructive than the effects of high winds. A combination of storm surge (water pushed in from the storm's winds) and sea level rise of at least a foot in the last century caused the storm surge at Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan to be the highest ever (+14 ft) with major flooding of buildings, subways, and tunnels that resulted in at least $50 billion in damages.

On Cape Cod we were extremely fortunate because the storm's effects were relatively minor, and we were outside the hurricane's primary track. Despite the fact that we received only a glancing blow, the Cape still suffered extensive power outages and coastal damage. Major hurricanes have struck Cape Cod in the past, and inevitably, there will be others in the future. Future hurricanes are likely to be more dangerous as sea level will be higher and storms may increase in strength due to the warming ocean.

As climate change continues, weather patterns we have known all our lives are becoming vastly different. Superstorm Sandy is being viewed as a wake-up call and has helped place climate change back on the nation's agenda.


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