US Could Suffer a 'Katrina' Every Other Year

Major storm surges could happen 10 times as often by century's end: study

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 19, 2013 7:42 AM CDT

(Newser) – A new study offers a dire warning about climate change: Hurricanes like Katrina could be commonplace by century's end. Researchers found that intense storm surges, typically the deadliest aspect of such storms, could become 10 times as frequent over upcoming decades if the climate warms by 3.6 degrees. "This means that there will be a Katrina-magnitude storm surge every other year," says the lead researcher.

One estimate pegs the expected temperature rise at between 2.0 and 5.2 degrees over the rest of the century—and that's a best-case scenario, USA Today notes. When the climate gets 0.7 degrees warmer, that "corresponds to a doubling of the frequency of extreme storm surges like the one during Hurricane Katrina," the researcher notes. "We have already crossed the threshold where more than half of all 'Katrinas' are due to global warming." But another climate expert calls the study "very misleading" because it's constructed from "a very incomplete data set"—tide gauge measurements at just six Southeastern locations.

In this Jan. 31, 2013, photo, damaged houses sit vacant in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, a neighborhood that was hit hard by floodwaters from a levee break after Hurricane Katrina.
In this Jan. 31, 2013, photo, damaged houses sit vacant in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, a neighborhood that was hit hard by floodwaters from a levee break after Hurricane Katrina.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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