Sea level is projected to rise at least 16 inches along the California coast by 2050, with a 55-inch rise predicted by 2100. The primary impacts from sea level rise are increases in flooding and erosion. Sea level rise will expand the area vulnerable to flooding during major storms, as well as in the rare but catastrophic event of a major tsunami. 

The term 100-year flood is used as a standard for planning, insurance, and environmental analysis.  People, infrastructure, and property are already located in areas vulnerable to flooding from a 100-year event. Sea level rise will cause more frequent—and more damaging—floods to those already at risk and will increase the size of the coastal floodplain, placing new areas at risk to flooding.

1/30/17

 

Last week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “NOAA” issued a new 44-page report, “Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States.”  They have created a new projection line for as much as 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) by 2100, the red colored line shown above, based upon a comprehensive assessment of the latest science primarily focused on Greenland and Antarctica. Eight feet of higher sustained sea level will be catastrophic for almost every coastal community in the world.

 

What makes this so hard to accept is that we have never had this level of sea level rise in all of human civilization. The last time sea level was higher than present was 120,000 years ago. Then it reached about 25 feet higher than present (7-8 meters). Based on the current temperature levels, we will almost certainly reach that height. The question is how soon. That does depend on how aggressively we work to reduce the level of greenhouse gases – largely carbon dioxide. In all my talks and briefings, I try to leave two takeaways:

 

  1. To slow rising sea level and the other effects of climate change, we must reduce greenhouse gases as quickly as possible. However, regardless of the fact that we can slow the rise, we can not stop it in the coming decades. The ice melting and the sea rising have passed a “tipping point” and will continue for centuries.
  2. We must begin planning and adapting to higher sea level NOW! That would be the smart thing to do recognizing the new record flooding in coastal areas, as a result of more severe storms, record rainfall, and extreme high tides, all compounded by rising oceans.

 

A few places are beginning the process to look at how to adapt to higher sea level — in fact there are dozens of communities around the US and globally that are starting to take this huge challenge quite seriously. This new NOAA Report and the 8 foot red line should add urgency to begin the process and to think ahead — so that our investments in buildings and infrastructure are truly good investments, ones that will protect us today and be a good foundation for communities of the future.

 

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Homeowners are slowly growing wary of buying property in the areas most at risk, setting up a potential economic time bomb in an industry that is struggling to adapt.

 

11/24/16

 

MIAMI — Real estate agents looking to sell coastal properties usually focus on one thing: how close the home is to the water’s edge. But buyers are increasingly asking instead how far back it is from the waterline. How many feet above sea level? Is it fortified against storm surges? Does it have emergency power and sump pumps?

 

Rising sea levels are changing the way people think about waterfront real estate. Though demand remains strong and developers continue to build near the water in many coastal cities, homeowners across the nation are slowly growing wary of buying property in areas most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

 

12/25/16

 

“By 2050, this will be normal,” said Aldaron Laird, standing near the top of an Arcata wastewater treatment pond levee as waves broke at his feet.

 

A small group had trekked out to the Rising Tides Bench during a nine-foot King Tide on Dec. 13 for a discussion of sea level rise, its imminence and consequences.

 

While the bay’s present borders can more or less withstand today’s King Tides – also known as perigean spring tides, which coincide with maximum gravitational pull by the moon and sun – that won’t be the case when they ride in on top of tomorrow’s raised sea levels. At that point, seawater would overtop current levees and inundate coastal areas, including homes, farms, businesses and critical public infrastructure.

 

The higher sea levels are not an “if,” they’re a “when.” What we don’t know is exactly when.

11/18/16

 

The images are dramatic, showing some of Eureka’s most important areas completely submerged in water. The Bayshore Mall, Costco, Schmidbauer Lumber, even parts of Old Town and Highway 101 would lie beneath the surface of the ocean according to the worst-case-scenario projections for sea level rise and tectonic subsidence by the year 2100 in a new draft report prepared for the City of Eureka.

 

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Inundation maps were developed by Jeff Anderson of Northern Hydrology & Engineering for the Humboldt Bay Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment Project. The maps show areas vulnerable to existing and future sea levels that are currently protected from inundation due to the natural shoreline, dikes or berms, and railroad or road grades.