Who is vulnerable and who is resilient to coastal flooding? Lessons from Hurricane Sandy in New York City

  • 31 March 2021

Social vulnerability and resilience indices identify populations who are at risk from hazards in order to guide policy to build resilience. In a new study in Climatic Change, the Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN), a CPO Regional Integrated Science and Assessments (RISA) team, identifies which common indicators reflect social vulnerability and resilience to coastal, storm-driven flooding in urban areas, focusing on low-rise housing, which is the most prone to flooding damage. The study is based on primary data that document the impacts of and recovery from Hurricane Sandy in New York City and was supported by CPO’s Coastal and Ocean Climate Applications (COCA) program.

The authors constructed measures of vulnerability and resilience that are independent of proposed indicators and used regression analysis to investigate which indicators influence these measures.

The analysis mentions five significant findings:

  1. Middle- and low-income homeowners are less financially resilient than are poorer renters. The recovery cost middle- to low-income homeowners 2.4 times their annual per capita incomes, while renters paid out about half of their per capita incomes. Resilience increases with income but depends on ownership of assets that are at risk.
  2. Disabled and/or chronically ill residents are more vulnerable and less resilient by many outcome measures.
  3. Non-white households experience longer disruptions of access to food.
  4. Information, hazard-specific capacities of community groups, and pre-hazard access to services such as food and health care are important indicators of vulnerability and resilience.
  5. The evidence that other commonly proposed indicators are correlated with independent measures of vulnerability and resilience to flooding is weak.

The study yields hypotheses for further research on how relevant indicators differ across hazards and contexts. This research is part of the Northeast RISA’s cross-cutting research on the social dimensions of adaptation and can help contribute efforts to address environmental and climate justice. This specific study was supported by multiple funding sources, including CPO’s COCA program, the NOAA Coastal Resilience Networks grant, CPO’s RISA Program, and a NASA Interdisciplinary Research in Earth Science grant.

Read the paper »

Learn more about CCRUN’s research on the social dimensions of adaptation »



Climate and Fisheries Adaptation (CAFA)

MISSION: The Climate and Fisheries Adaptation Program (CAFA) supports targeted research to promote sustainable management, adaptation and resilience of the nation’s valuable fish stocks and fisheries-dependent communities in a changing climate. By bringing together NOAA scientists with the academic community, other federal agency scientists, non-governmental organizations and key fisheries stakeholders, CAFA addresses priority needs for information and tools identified in the 2015 NOAA Fisheries Climate Science Strategy, Fisheries Regional Action Plans, U.S. National Climate Assessment, and other sources.

ISSUE: Healthy and productive fisheries are a significant component of the U.S. economy. Commercial and recreational marine fisheries generate over $200 billion in economic activity and support more than 1.8 million jobs annually. (FEUS 2016) Reliant and sustainable fisheries also support working waterfronts and coastal communities, provide opportunities for commerce, are tied to rich cultures, and help meet the growing demand for seafood across the U.S. and the world.

Climate variability and change are having increasing impacts on fish stocks, fisheries, and marine ecosystems in the U.S., and the impacts are expected to significantly increase with continued climate change. The changing climate and ocean conditions (e.g. warming oceans, extreme events, changing currents and stratification, coastal precipitation, coastal inundation, etc.) directly and indirectly affect marine ecosystems including the abundance, distribution, and productivity of fish stocks that support economically important fisheries. Sustainable fisheries management requires an improved understanding of how climate, fishing, and other stressors interact to affect fish stocks (including their habitats and prey), fisheries and fishing‐dependent communities.

PROGRAM HISTORY: The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) Climate Program Office, and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Office of Science and Technology launched a partnership in 2014 to advance understanding of climate‐related impacts on fish or other species that support economically important fisheries and fishing communities. The partnership originated through the former Coastal and Ocean Climate Applications (COCA) Program and in 2021 was renamed the Climate and Fisheries Adaptation (CAFA) Program as part of the OAR/CPO Adaptation Sciences Program.


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Americans’ health, security and economic wellbeing are tied to climate and weather. Every day, we see communities grappling with environmental challenges due to unusual or extreme events related to climate and weather.