A day after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report that predicted an average of 14 inches of additional sea level rise by 2050, US coastal states and cities are pondering what it means to them.
The NOAA report said the additional sea level rise, on top of the foot that’s already accumulated over the last century, will not be evenly distributed. The Pacific Coast will see up to 8 inches of sea level rise, the Atlantic Coast up to 14 inches, and the Gulf of Mexico up to 18 inches. This is due to the unique interaction of the ocean and land at these locations, along with land subsidence and other issues.
News reports posted online since the report was released gives a general impression about how states and cities are responding to the report.
- “In California, the impacts could be acute: Daily overland flooding from one foot of sea level rise equates to about $15 billion worth of properties at risk and would affect about 38,000 people, according to Patrick Barnard, a USGS research geologist who also worked on the report. The daily emergence of groundwater pushed up by the rising seas could expose an additional 350,000 people and $100 billion worth of properties, he said.” — “Rising Sea Levels Pose Perilous Threat to California Coast as Study Raises New Alarms” Los Angeles Times Feb. 16, 2022
- “Rising seas will become an increasing problem over the next three decades in the Carolinas and along the East Coast as the planet heats up and the swelling ocean hits coastal properties. … The report is particularly relevant in the Carolinas and Georgia, where billions of dollars in developed property fronts salt marshes, tidal rivers and oceanfront beaches. Nuisance flooding is occurring more often in some spots across the South Atlantic, including tide-driven floods on sunny days.” — “High Seas Threaten the Carolinas by 2050. New Study Reveals How Bad That Will Be” The News & Observer Feb. 16, 2022
- “Florida’s near-future of higher sea levels and more flooding is coming into sharper focus, according to a new government report, even as scientists say worst-case conditions appear to be further off than initially thought — giving people more time to prepare.” — “Here’s What Tampa Bay Can Expect from New Sea Level Rise Projections” Tampa Bay Times Feb.16 2022
- “‘This report builds upon a body of science that we’ve incorporated into the planning, design, and implementation of every Master Plan project,’ said Chip Kline, chairman of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, which oversees the state’s coastal restoration and hurricane risk reduction master plan. ‘In fiscal year 2023 alone, CPRA is allocating over $1.3 billion toward the mitigation of climate change and the projected damages we anticipate from sea level rise in the coming decades.'” — “Seas Could Rise 2 Feet on Louisiana Coast by 2050, 4 Feet by 21” — Federal Officials Say NOLA.com Feb. 16, 2022
It’s clear reading the responses to the NOAA report from sea level rise flooding experts at the state and local levels that the NOAA study’s greatest value is as a reminder that 12-18 inches of sea level rise over the next thirty years might not sound like much but it actually poses a serious threat to public infrastructure — such as roads, bridges and wastewater systems — and private real estate. Another fact to keep in mind is that NOAA’s prediction — based on the best information available today — is subject to change as more accurate information becomes available or if there’s an unexpected change in glacial ice melt in Greenland or Antarctica.
The time to act to drastically reduce the consumption of fossil fuels that are releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and driving global warming and reinforcing coastal defenses against sea level rise flooding has arrived.