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Using Integrated Models to Assess NYC Flood Risks From Extreme Storms

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Brian Colle, PhD, head of the Coastal Meteorology and Atmospheric Prediction group.
Brian Colle, PhD, head of the Coastal Meteorology and Atmospheric Prediction group.

Stony Brook, NY, September 26, 2018 – After Superstorm Sandy, the need to better understand stormwater flood risks and improve infrastructure in the metro area of New York City (NYC) became a priority. A new study, co-led by Professor Brian Colle, PhD, head of the Coastal Meteorology and Atmospheric Prediction group at Stony Brook’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS), is now assessing stormwater flood risks in New York City by way of developing unique modeling and risk assessment tools.

The research team includes scientists from SoMAS, Brooklyn College (lead), The New School, the Stevens Institute of Technology, and Colorado State University. The project goals are to (1) determine the current and future flood risk in NYC from storm surge, heavy rainfall, and a combination of the two; (2) develop a modeling framework for NYC to identify flood risk areas using state-of-the-art atmospheric and hydrologic plus hydraulic models; and (3) analyze flood mitigation approaches as storms properties change and sea level rises during the next century. Colle notes that the risk for flooding from heavy rainfall in NYC has not been well quantified.

Major events have occurred in the region, such an August 14 rain event around Islip, NY, in which 13 inches of rain fell in a few hours. Professor Colle says that if this event had occurred over NYC, it would have been catastrophic.

The SoMAS group is helping the effort to develop historical and future climate flooding scenarios for NYC. These scenarios will demonstrate varied conditions for rainfall intensity; sea level rise; occurrence of coincident flooding from rainfall and surge or tidal inundation; and different spatially distributed rainfall. Colle explains that all of these scenarios will be completed by analyzing decades of historical surface observations, high resolution atmospheric model simulations of past events, and future climate runs.

The collaborative research initiative is supported by new funding from NYC’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency and totals $1.8 million.

About Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University is going beyond the expectations of what today’s public universities can accomplish. Since its founding in 1957, this young university has grown to become a flagship as one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system with more than 26,000 students and 2,600 faculty members, and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs. Our faculty have earned numerous prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The University offers students an elite education with an outstanding return on investment: U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 50 public universities in the nation. Its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. As part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University joins a prestigious group of universities that have a role in running federal R&D labs. Stony Brook University is a driving force in the region’s economy, generating nearly 60,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of more than $4.6 billion. Our state, country and world demand ambitious ideas, imaginative solutions and exceptional leadership to forge a better future for all. The students, alumni, researchers and faculty of Stony Brook University are prepared to meet this challenge.

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  • I have only praise for Stony Brook. Our son received his doctorate in Musical Composition so I am prejudiced, but its offerings and research are nothing short of amazing in scope. I’ll say so anywhere!

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