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Sea Level Rise

What is Expected for New York

6 NYCRR Part 490, Projected Sea-level Rise Rulemaking - Available for public comment through December 28, 2015.

aerial view of Long Island
Rising seas and increased storm surges
put New York's coastlines at risk.

Fast Facts - Sea-level Rise in New York

  • New York has an estimated 1,850 miles of tidal shoreline exposed to the action of tides, wind and waves - much of it developed and densely populated.
  • New York has experienced at least a foot of sea-level rise since 1900, mostly due to expansion of warming ocean water. Certain conditions along New York's coast make sea-level rise here somewhat higher than the global average.
  • New York's coastal marine counties already see more intense storm surges and floods. Superstorm Sandy highlighted the risks and vulnerabilities of our tidal shorelines, which are home to more than half of New Yorkers.
  • By 2100, scientists project sea levels 18 to 50 inches higher than today along New York's coastlines and estuaries, though a rise as high as 75 inches could occur.
  • Sea-level rise is locked in for centuries, or even millennia, by heat-trapping greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. Continuing or increasing emissions will speed up the rise to higher levels.
  • Energy, land use and infrastructure decisions made now will determine how vulnerable our children and grandchildren will be to rising sea-levels.

Assessing risks and planning for resilience

Sea-level rise poses a significant risk to New York's people, resources and economy. Especially when levels are rising rapidly, communities and individuals need science-based projections to evaluate risks and plan for adaptation.

Currently, the best available projections for planning purposes are found in the 2014 Supplement to ClimAID (ClimAID link at right). Under the recently-adopted CRRA statute, New York will establish official State sea-level rise projections by early 2016.

Community Risk and Resiliency Act (CRRA)

The Community Risk and Resiliency Act (CRRA) designates specific State permitting, facility siting and funding programs that must take into account the intensified impacts of storm surges and floods as sea-levels rise. To facilitate impact evaluation, the law directs DEC to adopt science-based sea-level rise projections by January 1, 2016 and to provide guidance to help State agencies apply these projections.

ClimAID: 2011 and 2014

In 2011, Responding to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID) provided the first projections of sea-level rise specifically along New York's coastlines and estuaries. The ClimAID 2014 Supplement refined these projections to take into account all known components of sea-level rise, based on advances in physical understanding, climate modeling and computing and reflecting observational data that include Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy. DEC considers these projections to be the best available at this time for New York planners.

Sea-level Rise Task Force

In its Final Report (PDF, 3.5 MB) issued early in 2011, the New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force assessed sea-level rise impacts and identified the greatest threats to coastal communities and natural resources:

  • Increased frequency and intensity of severe flooding and storm surge damage, not only to communities and infrastructure, but also to critical ecosystems that buffer against floods, protect drinking water and provide habitat for important species;
  • Increased erosion of beaches and bluffs;
  • Inundation of low-lying areas;
  • Saltwater infiltration of surface waters and aquifers;
  • Possible compromise of low-lying sewage, wastewater, transportation, communication, and energy infrastructure and systems.

The Sea Level Rise Task Force recommendations are the basis for many of New York's current climate change adaptation policies.