Wednesday, February 6, 2013

FEMA uses historical data to predict future flood zones, Mary Cummins

It seems FEMA uses historical flood data to predict future floods. This makes no sense. We know the sea levels are rising. This should be taken into account. If not, people will rebuild homes in flood zones which will not survive floods. This means that FEMA will have to pay for future damages.  More below.

Climate Change Impacts Absent from FEMA's Redrawn NYC Flood Maps

Scientists argue new FEMA flood maps may be too conservative because they don't consider future sea level rise, with implications for Sandy rebuilding.

Feb 6, 2013
FEMA released revised flood zone maps of New York City on January 28. FEMA released revised flood zone maps of New York City on January 28. A close-up of Coney Island, Brooklyn is pictured here.
When the federal government releasedupdated flood maps for the New York City region last week, residents were shocked to find that the number of houses and businesses in the region's flood zone had doubled since the maps were last revised, in 1986.

But it now appears that those maps might have underestimated the extent of New York's flood risk, because they don't factor in the effects of future climate change. Scientists say that by the 2080s, sea levels off the city's coast could rise by as much as five feet from melting glaciers, making storm surges more severe and causing floods much further inland than the new maps indicate.

The maps also don't incorporate data from Hurricane Sandy, which caused catastrophic flooding in the nation's financial capital. Many structures destroyed by the superstorm are not included in the newly drawn flood zones.

If future sea level rise had been taken into account, the flood zone would likely have been much larger, said Philip Orton, a physical oceanographer at theStevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, who served as a technical reviewer on the updated maps.

"The fear is that we'll get a meter [3.3 feet] of [sea level] rise by the end of the century, potentially more," Orton said. "People are rightfully concerned. ... The New York City area isn't ready for the storm surges of today, as we learned from Sandy, let alone what is possible in the future."
The omissions mean the maps already may be outdated—or will be very soon—some scientists said, with implications for Hurricane Sandy rebuilding efforts, as well as the city's plans for adapting to long-term climate change. The flood maps, which are produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), are used to set insurance requirements and building codes. If the New York maps are too conservative, property owners might be wasting their money by rebuilding in especially vulnerable areas or by adapting structures to meet standards that will have to be revised in a few years.

"Old statistics on flood risk are obsolete," said Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). "Increasingly, [FEMA] should be looking ahead."

FEMA officials who spoke on background to InsideClimate News said future sea level rise wasn't included because the agency has traditionally used historical storm information to determine where flood zones should be set. Incorporating impending climate change simply wasn't part of the process.

Mary Cummins of Animal Advocates is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the California Department of Fish and Game. Mary Cummins is also a licensed real estate appraiser in Los Angeles, California.

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