Effects of Coastal Flooding on Transportation

Steven Chien

Professor Steven Chien, civil and environmental engineering, is studying the potential effects coastal flooding due to climate change on transportation in the New York/New Jersey area. With a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation through its University Transportation Research Center at City University of New York, he has developed a hybrid hydrologic and hydrodynamic flood modeling system to predict coastal flooding due to global warming effects and an analytical/numerical approach to evaluate evacuation plans and estimate minimum evacuation times at various levels of flooding conditions.

“Global warming and climate change are reshaping our world in many ways,” he says. “Recent studies show that global warming will cause the sea level along the northeastern U.S. coast to rise almost twice as fast as global sea levels during this century, putting metro New York City at greater risk for catastrophic events under hurricanes and winter storms.”

He said that coastal flooding may affect the resilience of the transportation infrastructure and services. However, it is currently difficult for transportation agencies to incorporate information about potential flooding into transportation planning and investment processes. The capability to predict coastal region flooding considering climate change becomes extremely valuable to develop plans reacting foreseeable disasters. The current project is designed to predict flooding nearby coastal regions considering various scenarios due to climate change, such as sea level rise, precipitation increase, and its impact on transportation network and reaction plans, utilizing available techniques and recently developed tools.

Findings in this study appeared in the Journal of the International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards, concluding that sea-level rise will lead to a substantial increase in vulnerability of New Jersey residents and transportation infrastructure to storm floods, and such a flood tends to affect more population in Cape May County but more transportation facilities in Cumberland County, New Jersey.