Sustainability and Resiliency

Extreme Weather

Extreme weather events such as storms, flooding, and hurricanes have long been a part of New England's history. From the devastating Great New England Hurricane of 1938  to the more recent impacts of Storm Sandy in 2012, these events highlight the region's vulnerability to extreme climatic conditions. The intensity of hurricane is projected to increase, with present 114 mph wind speed becoming 123 mph in 30 years. Providence is classified as being at major risk to extreme wind events.  

Today, nuisance flooding (or high-tide flooding), has become increasingly common, occurring 300%-900% more frequently than it did 50 years ago.

As the effects of climate change intensify, Rhode Island faces heightened risks of both inland and coastal flooding. Rising temperatures, accelerated sea level rise, and extensive coastline assets amplify the state's susceptibility to these events. Projections indicate that extreme weather events will become more frequent, exacerbating the current risks.

According to the First National Flood Risk Assessment in 2020, approximately 26.5 K properties across Rhode Island are currently at significant risk of flooding, with this number expected to rise by 15% by 2050. Providence, with 5.2 K properties at risk, stands out as particularly vulnerable. Flood model for the city estimates that 1% chance of flooding now (i.e.100 year) could change to 26% chance over 30 years, increasing the risk of flooding.  

Coastal flooding poses a significant threat to residential properties, critical infrastructure, and ecosystems, especially given Rhode Island's expansive 420-mile coastline. Efforts such as the development of STORMTOOL by the state aim to mitigate these risks and support coastal resilience planning, underscoring the importance of proactive measures in addressing the climate change challenges.