With sea levels continuing to rise, a growing number of New Jersey communities will experience high-tide flooding within the next few decades. And the problem will get dramatically worse by the start of the next century, according to a new report.

Kristy Dahl, a climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists and an author of the report, said within the next 20 years, “even with an intermediate sea level rise scenario, there are over 21 communities that could see flooding on average, every other week.”

That group of towns includes Seaside Park and 14 others down the Shore that rarely have any flooding problems today.

She noted “there are a lot of places along the Jersey Shore that are very exposed to sea level rise, but it’s not just limited to the Jersey Shore, many communities along the Delaware Bay would also see this chronic inundation, as well as a bunch of communities in northern New Jersey including Newark and Hoboken and Jersey City.”

The report finds 55 percent of Moonachie may be chronically flooded by the year 2035 and other parts of the Meadowlands could also face big problems.

She noted by the start of the next century “in the worst case scenario, New Jersey could be looking at about 130 of its communities having more than 10 percent of their land area flooding every other week.”

Courtesy Union of Concerned Scientists

Dahl said this type of flooding will be very disruptive and even dangerous, with water running so high in some streets that residents will be forced to move their vehicles so salt water doesn’t rise underneath them and corrode them.

Dahl pointed out the sea level rise trend is very concerning.

"We’re looking at, in a high scenario, something like 60 percent of all oceanfront communities on the East and Gulf coasts would be experiencing this type of flooding, so we really need to be advocating for a cohesive policy that will help communities understand the options that they have, and to help them implement those options.”

She says scientists aren’t sure how high sea levels will rise because “we don’t know how our carbon emissions are going to evolve over the course of the century, and we’re still learning how the Earth’s system will respond to those carbon emissions.”

Bearing that in mind, she said a range of sea level rise projections were used for the report.

“We could see everything from a 1 ½ foot sea level rise by the end of the century, which would be a best-case scenario, to a 6 ½ foot rise by the end of the century, which is high, but far from the worst-case scenario.”

She added: “We know that many communities are going to be experiencing much more frequent flooding, and so we need to begin to prepare our communities for that flooding, and the sooner we act, the less costly that’s going to be.”

On another front, she said, “We need to be working to swiftly reduce our carbon emissions to avoid the worst-case scenario.”

Many New Jersey communities have built up their dunes and built sea walls since Superstorm Sandy, but she pointed out when flooding occurs those mitigation efforts may not do much.

“During storms, we see that a lot of the water is coming in not from the ocean side, but from the bay side,” she said.

She noted beach replenishment efforts require constant attention and huge amounts of money in order to be effective, so over the long haul this is not really a viable strategy to deal with rising sea levels.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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