As seen in this mid-November 2012 broadcast of "Richard French Live" - an Emmy Award winning interactive, progressive news talk show on the Regional News Network (RNN) - Stony Brook University (SBU) oceanography professor and storm surge expert Dr. Malcolm Bowman provided insight into superstorm Sandy's flooding in the metro New York area and the possiblity of storm barriers.
The eight-minute interview with Bowman, during which he also discussed the controversy over climate change, was followed by a debate-style panel discussion with French and some guests about whether or not the flooding could have been avoided. RNN is a independent 24/7 content provider who's network reaches more than six million homes throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
"If we had implemented these barriers by now," Bowman said, "there would have been no damage to New York from the ocean." These barriers are high tech. In one design, a wall lies flat at the bottom of the harbor, pivoting up when needed to block the storm surge. And they've proven effective in other major coastal regions, like London and the Netherlands, operating 24 hours a day. But one proposal for New York's harbor runs upwards of $6 Billion and skeptics say that the barriers may not work on long stretches of coastline, like the Jersey Shore. But, with damage estimates from superstorm Sandy reaching into the billions ($20 billion and, perhaps, beyond), many are saying it is now time to consider new ideas.
During the broadcast, French asks Bowman: "What would you say to those who say this is just a 1 in 100 year type phenomenon. We shouldn't be building policy around something we haven't seen before."
"If you look at Hurricane Irene and now Hurricane Sandy, we have two 100 year events 12 months apart," says
Bowman. "So, I feel we are in an era of changine weather patterns that we have to take very seriously. And, I'm not going to say that we're going to have an event like this every year, but in our planning for the protection of New York City and the surrounding area, we need to rethink our policy."
On the topic of climate change, Bowman says, "I'm not saying that Irene and Sandy proved climate change, but they are consistent with climate change. It's like building a case and they are Exhibits A and B. We're going to see Exhibits C, D, E and F coming along that we must be prepared for."
How could a barrier like the ones used overseas work in New York? Bowman says, "What I've been proposing is a five-mile barrier from the northern tip of New Jersey (Sandy Hook) across to Far Rockaway in New York. This would be a six-lane toll road interstate highway with the water flow underneath, like an elevated causeway. There would be large gates that shipping can pass through. Under normal conditions, the gates would be slammed shut."
"The advantage of this particular location over other we've looked at," Bowman continues, "is that it would form complete protection for Staten Island, the south shore of Long Island, Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Airports, Port Elizabeth in New Jersey, Manhattan's business district, the Raritan river communities - all those communities that have suffered so dreadfully [as a result of Sandy]."
In terms of prioritizing what to protect, Bowman says: "[Though] we cannot save the whole East Coast from the ravages of climate change, rising sea level and extreme storms, we have to focus on New York City and it's importance on the global scene - it's the center of finance, medicine, science, the arts and [home to] 8-12 million people."
For the last decade, New York Sea Grant (NYSG) has provided principal funding to Bowman and SBU's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) Storm Surge Research Group to work on storm surge science, coastal defense systems and policy issues related to regional protection of New York City and Long Island. The Group was initially formed to develop coastal early warning system for emergency response against flooding in Metropolitan New York.
For more on the Research Group's science on superstorm Sandy, check out NYSG's related news items:
In the News: Superstorm Sandy and the Discussion from SBU Experts that Followed (November 16, 2012) http://www.seagrant.sunysb.edu/articles/r/2217
SBU Storm Surge Research Group Track Sandy, Correct Inaccuracies (November 2, 2012) http://www.seagrant.sunysb.edu/articles/r/2210
For more on how NYSG's funded researchers and specialists have responded to Sandy, check out http://www.nyseagrant.org/superstormsandy. Also, NYSG's severe storm and hurricane resources can be found at http://www.nyseagrant.org/hurricane.