Climate Change: coastal properties already threatened by sea level rise
Rising tides threaten communities on the beach — and far from it, too USA Today, Matt Alderton, Green Living April 19, 2014 The mud in Folsom Lake, near Sacramento, Calif., is dry and chapped, like cracked heels. The bottom of the reservoir, once under water, now is largely barren, save for its shallow center and a smattering of stray puddles.
That’s because California is in the midst of one of the worst droughts in state history. Conditions are so bad that
Gov. Jerry Browndeclared a state emergency in January. He urged state residents to voluntarily reduce personal water consumption by 20 percent.
In the context of having so little water, it might seem strange to worry about having too much. And yet, that’s exactly the dilemma facing California today. Even as it reels from drought, it must begin planning for floods. And make no mistake: Floods are coming. Not only to California, but to coastal cities across the country and around the world, which face a certain influx of water as oceans rise under the specter of climate change.
“We analyzed 55 different water level stations throughout the United States and found that for about two-thirds of them, sea level rise from climate change has already more than doubled the risk of extreme flooding,” says Dr. Ben Strauss, director of the Program on Sea Level Rise at Climate Central, a nonprofit organization dedicated to communicating the science and effects of climate change.
Based on the analysis, Climate Central developed Surging Seas, an interactive website (sealevel.climatecentral.org) that maps the flood threats from sea level rise and storm surges. The map shows how more than 3,000 coastal communities in the contiguous United States would be affected if sea levels were to rise from 1 to 10 feet.
“Sea level rise is already happening, and its continuation is inevitable,” Strauss says. “At some point it will be obvious to every family living in a coastal area, and every community will be looking to protect itself.”
A scary proposition
Multiple forces are colluding to make the oceans swell.
One is warming oceans. “Because of that, you have an expansion of ocean waters, and the only place they can go is up,” says Rachel Cleetus, a senior economist in the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an alliance of citizens and scientists who collaborate on solutions to global problems.
Another is melting land-based ice forms such as glaciers and ice sheets. “You’re adding volume to the world’s oceans, and that’s causing them to rise,” Cleetus says.
Because the rate of ice loss is accelerating, oceans are rising faster than ever before. Cleetus says sea level could rise anywhere from 8 inches to 6.5 feet by the end of the century. Some scientists put estimates as high as 10 or 15 feet. That’s on top of approximately 8 inches of sea level rise already logged in the last century.
“Those 8 inches of sea level rise from climate change are already making every single coastal flood bigger, deeper and more damaging,” Strauss says.
Although scientists typically project sea level rise through the year 2100, communities likely will be impacted much sooner than that. The culprit? Incremental storm surges……….
Ultimately, then, the best solution might be the hardest to swallow: retreat.
“We need to pull back, in essence, from the shore,” says environmental and land-use planning consultant Barry Chalofsky. “If you live (in a coastal floodplain) and you’re counting on your house to be your nest egg when you retire, or you want to pass it on to your children, I would strongly think about elevating your property, then selling it over the next five to 10 years.” http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2014/04/19/green-living-coastal-communities/7871349/
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