New York City’s Surprise Flood Presages a New Normal

New research predicts an even wetter future and extreme threats for coastal areas all over the planet

Robert Roy Britt
4 min readSep 30, 2023

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Extreme wet events like the unexpected storm that flooded the New York City area Friday are no surprise to climate scientists, who have long predicted just such downpours as a result of global warming. At John F. Kennedy Airport, 8.65 inches of rain fell, more than any September day in recorded history.

Events like this will become common, with extreme heatwaves and rainfall events becoming routine and 100-year floods occurring annually, according to a pair of new studies and other recent research.

The threat will be particularly acute for hundreds of millions of people who live in coastal areas that can expect a devastating combination of rising seas and heavier rainfall coupled with extreme runoff from, ironically, parched earth. With climate change comes warmer air and greater evaporation from a warmer ocean, ingredients that can make a hurricane more saturated or turn an otherwise run-of-the-mill storm into a wet-hot monster like Friday’s unexpected deluge.

Any given storm can pack more water than it would have without global warming. Until it dumps it in what’s often a largely unpredictable time and place.

Not every extreme weather event is directly caused by global warming, but climate change is “loading the dice against us,” Katharine Hayhoe, PhD, chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy, said Friday.

“Every day, it’s becoming more obvious: Climate change isn’t a far-off threat — it’s impacting us right here, right now,” said Hayhoe, a longtime climate researcher calling for the use of hard data to evaluate and mitigate the reality of climate change.

Our wet-hot future

Earth’s land areas are more likely to be wetter than drier in the future, given rising global temperatures, scientists predicted in a study published this month in the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) journal Earth’s Future.

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Robert Roy Britt

Editor of Aha! and Wise & Well on Medium + the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com. Author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB