Climate change set to disrupt more major US cities

Climate change set to disrupt more major US cities

Jan 9, 2015


Several major cities across the US are expected to experience an increase in the number of hurricane-related power outages as the effects of climate change worsen.

John Hopkins University analysis revealed that New York and Philadelphia are the most vulnerable to future storms, while Jacksonville in Florida and Virginia Beach came third and fourth respectively.

Hartford, Connecticut; Orlando, Tampa and Miami in Florida; Providence, Rhode Island; and New Orleans in Louisiana completed the list of most susceptible cities. 

Engineers at the institution used a computer modeling process to assess the weaknesses of power grids, taking into account historic extreme weather data and plausible future hurricane scenarios.

Seth Guikema, associate professor at the John Hopkin's Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, said the research could help cities better prepare for disasters.

"We provide insight into how power systems along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts may be affected by climate changes, including which areas should be most concerned and which ones are unlikely to see substantial change," he stated.

"If I'm mayor of Miami, we know about hurricanes, we know about outages and our system has been adapted for it. But if I'm mayor of Philadelphia, I might say, 'Whoa; we need to be doing more about this."

According to the research, the chances of 100-year storms occurring in New York and Philadelphia could be as much as 50 per cent higher if climate change intensifies. A 100-year storm is a weather event so extreme it is thought to only have a 1 per cent chance of happening in any given year.

The study predicted that the frequency rate of power outages will increase in these circumstances, while the severity of the very worst storms will also rise.

Mr Guikema warned infrastructure providers and emergency managers to consider the long-term effects of climate change and address potential weaknesses in disaster recovery functions.

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