When you think of extreme weather, it's only natural for the worst possible outcome to pop into our heads. Just look at how hot most of the country got this past summer, for example.

In New Jersey, all we have to do is look back at the freak storm that was Superstorm Sandy. Not to mention, the unprecedented flooding in different parts of the state.

So it should come as no surprise that experts are raising the alarm bells when it comes to extreme weather events. But what does it all mean for the future of New Jersey?

Is the situation really as dire as some make it out to be? And also, how much more in insurance are we going to have to pay in the long run?

Unfortunately for us, rates have already gone up and may continue to do so down the road. We'll take a closer look at that study in a moment.

But first, let's take a look at the latest study surrounding extreme weather events, including thoughts from Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow.

NJ winter storm flooding on Friday (reader submitted, NJ Transit via Twitter)
NJ winter storm flooding on Friday (reader submitted, NJ Transit via Twitter)

The broad picture

Research by the Fifth National Climate Assessment, which was reported by cnn.com, warned that the country as a whole isn't dropping emission levels fast enough, even though the U.S. is already making efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.

This is leading to storms and weather events becoming ever more severe on extreme levels. Storms that used to occur once every 100 years on average now occur at a higher frequency.

The report also states that no part of the country will be spared when it comes to future extreme weather events occurring at a more frequent rate. Weather events such as wildfires or hurricanes are becoming bigger and stronger which helps contribute to the findings.


A closer look

When it comes to New Jersey, some such storms and weather events have already occurred in recent memory. It's not that these types of extreme storms never used to happen, they just occur at a greater frequency than they have in the past.

New Jersey, for example, is projected to see a 1-in-100-year storm every 11 to 25 years now on average. That doesn't mean the same type of weather event will occur that frequently, however.

It simply means the frequency of such an extreme weather event is more likely to occur at a higher rate. And this, of course, ties into rising temperatures year over year.

For New Jersey, a rise in tick-borne diseases is also a big concern—just one of the many consequences of rising average temperatures in the Garden State.

question / thinking

Dan Zarrow's thoughts

According to Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow, the latest research and how it's explained to the public can be a little misleading. When it comes to such storms, they do not necessarily occur once every 100 years.

Rather, these extreme weather events are known as 1% storms. According to Dan, "It's a statistic calculated from past data that suggests the magnitude of a storm that has a 1-in-100 probability of occurring in any given year."

"Similarly, a 25-year storm is a 4 percent storm (1-in-25).  You can absolutely see 100-year storm-level events in back-to-back years." The same can be said for extreme weather events such as drought and intense heat waves.


What that means

What Dan is saying boils down to this. A storm or weather event that typically had a 1% chance of striking New Jersey will now occur at a frequency of around 4%.

And that's what the research conducted by the Fifth National Climate Assessment means when they say every 11 to 25 years. It's not that more intense weather events of a similar nature will occur, but rather, the chances have increased from 1% to at least 4% in a given year.

When you look at it that way, it helps clarify the probability such storms might occur. An increase, yes, but it also makes it easier to show just how unlikely extreme weather events still are for New Jersey.


We're paying more

According to a separate report by cbsnews.com, insurance companies are taking advantage of the situation by raising rates on coverage. More specifically, homeowners coverage.

And New Jersey is particularly affected. Research found that "nearly 90% of homes in New Jersey's Ocean County and nearly 60% of homes in Monmouth County are at risk of higher insurance premiums or losing their coverage."

Although an increase to at least 4% might not sound like much in terms of extreme weather probabilities, insurance companies don't see it that way. And for Ocean and Monmouth Counties, the rise in coverage is potentially far greater than that.

Satellite view of a hurricane in the ocean on Earth

One final thought

It's important to look at the big picture here. An increase in 1-in-100-year weather events on average does not mean we're spiraling out of control in The Garden State.

Yes, temperatures have been warming over the past several decades. And yes, multiple factors at play are causing them to rise.

But also keep in mind that this planet has gone through its own ups and downs throughout history. Think of the ice ages.


We do, however, need to be prepared for future insurance rate hikes as New Jersey continues to warm, along with problems such as tick-borne illnesses and invasive species moving in as a result.

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Gallery Credit: Mike Brant

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The above post reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 Sunday morning host Mike Brant. Any opinions expressed are his own.

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