Two factors are conspiring to make flooding more pronounced in New Jersey and in many places around the world.
First, as we continue to replace forests, meadows and wetlands with hard surfaces like asphalt, concrete, and rooftops, there is less and less room for rainfall and snowmelt to soak into the ground. Instead of replenishing groundwater, more and more of this water ends up as polluted stormwater runoff that speeds over land, through pipes, down streams and rivers, and empties to the ocean.
Second, our warming atmosphere is resulting in more evaporation and precipitation in many places. According to New Jersey’s state climatologist David Robinson, average annual rainfall has been increasing here and in many places. Climate scientists have also determined that more precipitation is falling in very heavy storm events in most of the country.
New Jersey has experienced some of the most damaging and expensive flooding in the country. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), between January 1, 1978 and April 30, 2015, New Jersey has received more than $5.6 billion in payments from FEMA to compensate for flood damages.
Scientists predicted the massive flooding that occurred in Houston in 2017 because of these two factors.
So how do we prevent flooding?
Fortunately, there are strategies known as “Green Stormwater Infrastructure” that can capture, store, and release water gradually into the ground. Our science staff is designing and implementing such measures to address the problem and our policy staff work with state and local governments to require developers to implement these measures.