A&M Study: Climate Change Will Increase Hurricane Flooding on TX Coast

By: TAMU Email
By: TAMU Email

(Galveston)Leading Texas A&M University engineering researchers have released a new, peer-reviewed study finding that climate change will markedly increase hurricane-related flooding and storm damages on the Texas coast in the city of Corpus Christi.

The report finds that the combination of expected climate change related sea-level rise and more intense hurricanes caused in part by global warming will increase structural damage to homes and buildings from a major hurricane by between 60 and 100 percent within about 20 years, and by more than 250 percent by 2080.
―Flooding and damage from major hurricanes will be more severe,‖ said the study author, Jennifer Irish, Assistant Professor, Coastal and Ocean Engineering, Texas A&M University. ―And the worse global warming gets, the more severe the consequences for the Texas coast.

Corpus Christi is especially vulnerable to sea-level rise because the coastal land is sinking and barrier islands are eroding. The coastal area around Corpus Christi is particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise for several reasons. First, the coastal land in this area is slowly sinking due to geologic forces and oil extraction, and this ―subsidence‖ combines with global sea-level rise to produce more ―relative‖ sea-level rise here than in places where the coastline is stable or rising. Second, while the city has historically benefited from the protection of barrier islands, these islands may erode as sea level rises, becoming lower in elevation, thus providing less protection from storm surge and a greater probability that the islands will be breached or overwashed.

While the results presented here offer an indication of the expected increase in damages as a result of global warming, the estimates are most likely low. Furthermore, the broader impact of hurricane damage to the local and national economy was not considered. Because Corpus Christi is a tourist area, local tourism revenue and other business-related revenue will likely be slower to recover following storms of higher intensity. There is also an increasing risk to the national economy, mainly because of Corpus Christi’s role in the petroleum industry. Finally, potential community adaptation to accelerating flood levels was not included in this analysis.

The study was funded by the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan, non-profit organization that examines key policy issues related to energy.

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