Media Availability: Experts Comment on Coastal Flooding Impact and Resiliency

Monday, March 11, 2024

DURHAM, N.H.—Recent major flooding and historical tide surges along the coastline of the United States have shown the significant and sometimes devastating damage that winter storms and increased sea level can cause in surrounding areas and infrastructure. The University of New Hampshire has several leading experts in coastal flooding and resiliency that can comment on a number of key topics like sea-level rise and more frequent powerful storms and their impact on infrastructure and transportation.

Jennifer Jacobs, professor of civil and environmental engineering; (603) 862-0635

Jacobs is a leading expert on the effect of flooding and its impact on coastal resiliency and infrastructure. She can talk about related issues that are threatening areas along the coast—like sea-level rise, flooding and snowmelt—and the challenges faced by residents and town officials dealing with related destruction caused by the endless wear and tear like pavement erosion, potholes, compromised bridges and seawalls. Some of Jacobs’s research has focused on so-called “nuisance flooding,” that happens along shore roadways during high tides or wind events. It found that in the past 20 years roads along the East Coast have experienced a 90 percent increase in flooding often making the roads in these communities impassable and causing delays, stress and impacting transportation of goods and services. Jacob was the lead author of the transportation chapter for the fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) that offered insight into the challenges of climate change on U.S. infrastructure—the backbone of economic activity—to perform reliably, safely and efficiently.

Jo Sias, professor of civil and environmental engineering

New England roadways are becoming more vulnerable due to increasingly wetter winters, hot summers, intense tropical storms, steady sea-level rise and increased flooding, all causing roads to take a beating. Sias is an expert in road resilience and her research looks at how and why climate change hazards, like high temperatures and excessive flooding, are causing roads to crumble and crack and looking for ways to protect them. The focus of the work is to understand the combined hazards of flooding from above and below the road. The goal is to create high-resolution models to study the effects of sea-level rise on roadways as well as develop a toolkit to help assess the effectiveness of alternatives. Sias can comment on the effect of climate change, flooding and sea-level rise on infrastructure and roadways, like erosion, potholes and even softening asphalt from record high temperatures.

Mary Stampone, associate professor of Geography; (603) 862-3136

As the New Hampshire State Climatologist, Stampone provides New Hampshire citizens, educators and agencies with weather and climate information in support of environmental management and planning activities. She is a co-author of the New Hampshire Coastal Flood Risk Summary Part 1: Science that found sea-level rise along the coast in New Hampshire and southern Maine has risen almost 8 inches in the last century impacting coastal property, public infrastructure, human health, public safety, economy and natural resources especially during nor’easters and high astronomical tides. She was also co-author of the 2021 N.H. Climate Assessment Report which points to a warmer and longer spring and fall and shows that annual rainfall is expected to increase another 7% to 9% by the middle of the century. Stampone’s research interests include climate system monitoring and applied climate science with a focus on regional climate variability and change.