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Sea Level Rise in the United States — From Nuisance to Trouble

As fossil fuel companies fight to keep cities and nations captive to harmful emissions, the effects of rising greenhouse gas concentrations are growing more and more pronounced.

A new study from NOAA finds that the incidence of flooding along U.S. coasts (primarily driven by fossil fuel burning) has increased considerably. This already-damaging situation, under present emissions scenarios, is expected to become much worse over the coming decades.

In the Southeast, high tide flooding days since 2000 have increased from an average of 1.5 per year to 3 per year. In the Northeast, similar flooding days have increased from about 3.5 per year to 6. Flooding is also becoming more common on the U.S. West Coast, though at a slower rate of growth. But hotspots for this region include San Francisco — which is seeing both land subsidence and rising oceans.

(New NOAA study reveals a staggering future for U.S. coastal flooding.)

For all coasts of the U.S. the future is looking increasingly grim. According to William Sweet, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

“The numbers are staggering. Today’s storm will be tomorrow’s high tide.”

By mid-Century the Western Gulf of Mexico is expected to face between 80 to 185 days of flooding per year, the coastal Northeast expects 45 to 130 days, and the Southeast and Eastern Gulf of Mexico is likely to see between 25 and 85 flooding days per year. By 2100, under expected fossil fuel burning scenarios, many locations will see at least minor flooding on most days.

In other words, already widespread flooding is about to get much worse. And the increasingly powerful storms we now see roaring out of an ocean riled by climate change will push their more intense storm surges up over already higher seas. Eventually, there will be no U.S. coastal zone that is untouched by this combined impact.

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7 Comments

  1. rhymeswithgoalie

     /  March 10, 2018

    Aye, and other components of local flooding is
    – collapse of the Gulf Stream pull allowing higher ambient sea level along the eastern seaboard
    – higher onshore surface wind speeds in more-frequent jet stream configurations
    – gravitational shift from ice cap mass loss

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  2. Genomik

     /  March 10, 2018

    I live in San Francisco and I think the way to solve our problems locally are to build a dam (or preferably locks) under the Golden Gate Bridge. Another set can go near Vallejo in the Delta.

    In this way we can control how much sea level rise affects the area.

    Furthermore we can install giant solar powered desalination to pump fresh water reverse into the Delta (behind the locks at Vallejo).

    This would mean the Bay stays salty, the delta stays fresh. Farming is supplied with water as is Los Angeles from the desalination water.

    The alternative is salt water intrudes and floods 100’s of Billions of real estate as well as destroying lots of farmland in the delta and lastly allowing the drought to continue.

    A set of locks would cost a maybe 5-10 billion but thats a drop in the bucket compared to costs of not building one.

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  3. Paul in WI

     /  March 10, 2018

    Here’s yet another reason (among a plethora of other reasons) to reduce carbon emissions from the Washington Post: “This dire ocean scenario is a stark reminder of why the world is trying to stop climate change”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2018/03/09/this-dire-ocean-scenario-is-a-stark-reminder-of-why-the-world-is-trying-to-stop-climate-change/?utm_term=.d97427338ead

    Although the study authors admit that this is an unlikely scenario given the extreme (2,000 PPM) levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels required, they state that it’s possible in about 300 years with unconstrained carbon pollution throughout the remainder of this century.

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  4. Syd Bridges

     /  March 11, 2018

    This problem is, of course, worldwide. People on small islands and densely populated deltas-e.g. Bangladesh and the Nile-are extremely vulnerable. But it will affect coastal cities and agriculture in much of western Europe, Asia, and Australia. In England, areas like the Somerset Levels, the Fens, and round the Solent are very low lying. When I lived in Portsmouth, I was by a road called The Saltings. That whole area was a major source of salt in the Middle Ages. They dug ditches into which saltwater seeped and then evaporated. The crude salt was dug out and purified. It was only eighteen inches above sea levels, with the Farlington Marshes between it and the sea. Portsmouth itself, population 200,000, is mostly about three feet above sea level.

    I used to live in a small village near the Somerset Levels, which were drained from the Middle Ages on. In 2013-4, there were severe floods and the empty suit, David Cameron, blamed lack of dredging caused by environmentalists. However, Somerset itself means “the Summer People” (Somersetas), because it always flooded in the winter. Names like Muchelney and Western Zoyland derived from the places being islands during winter flooding. Rising sea levels put the area at ever greater risk. The shape of the Bristol Channel means that storm surges can produce extremely high tides. The Bristol Channel meets the River Severn around Sharpness, where there can be 40 foot tidal ranges, which lead to the Severn Bore, a standing wave of about a metre high, which can go all the way to Gloucester after the tidal surge into the Bristol Channel.

    Thus this problem of rising seas will hit the UK hard. So what did the empty suit, Cameron, who boasted that he headed “the Greenest Government ever” actually do? He cut subsidies for home insulation and solar panels and sided with those who didn’t want to see windmills from their country houses.

    Liked by 1 person

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