NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBS Connecticut/AP) — An expert told CBS News that environmental shifts caused by climate change could lead to coastal flooding the likes of which was seen during Superstorm Sandy.

“Sea levels were higher when Sandy hit then they were say 100 years ago,” Dr. Radley Horton, a climate scientist at Columbia University and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said. “As a result of that, the damage, the water piling up, was higher than it would’ve been before we had that sea level rise.”

Horton also mentioned the melting of the polar ice caps and rising ocean temperatures as causes for concern.

“We’ve got about 40 percent more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than we did at the start of the Industrial Revolution,” he noted. “That’s almost entirely due to human activities, the burning of fossil fuels, land use changes, cutting of forests.”

Horton added, “As a result, we’ve got more of these heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. Some of that heat warms the atmosphere, some of it goes down into the ocean, and a warming liquid expands. Additionally, some of that ice that was trapped on land before is starting to melt, making its way into the water where it can cause sea level rise.”

The catastrophic effects of the storm are still being felt. A year after Superstorm Sandy drove Deborah Dinan from her Milford home, she lives above a loud bar and is often reduced to tears as she struggles to return to her flood ravaged home.

In Milford alone, officials say at least 200 families remain displaced since Sandy struck.

Many storm victims are required to elevate their homes. Some are hoping to get federal government grants to help pay the expense but applications are only now being accepted.

Many homeowners are overwhelmed trying to figure out how to rebuild as they deal with insurers, contractors and local, state and federal officials.

Experts were additionally concerned by weakening jet streams, which they said may allow storms to follow a similar path to that of Superstorm Sandy.

Other extreme weather patterns – including heat waves – are emerging with greater frequency as a result of environmental changes, CBS News also found.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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