Hampton Roads – Tidewater Sea Level Rise

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Parts of the Hampton Roads – Tidewater area could see more frequent flooding in the coming decades, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report published in Nature Climate Change.

The study found that the rate of sea level rise is increasing three to four times faster along portions of the U.S. Atlantic Coast than globally. Since about 1990, sea-level rise in the 600-mile stretch of coastal zone from Cape Hatteras, N.C. to north of Boston, MA has increased 2 – 3.7 millimeters per year; the global increase over the same period was 0.6 – 1.0 millimeter per year. According to researchers, if global temperatures continue to rise, rates of sea level rise along the Atlantic are expected to continue increasing.

The report indicates that the sea-level rise hotspot is consistent with the slowing of Atlantic Ocean circulation. Models show this change in circulation may be tied to changes in water temperature, salinity, and density in the subpolar north Atlantic.

During the 21st century, the increases in sea level rise rate that have already occurred in the hotspot will yield increases in sea level of 8 to 11.4 inches by 2100. This regional sea level increase would be in addition to components of global sea level rise.

“Cities in the hotspot, like Norfolk, New York, and Boston already experience damaging floods during relatively low intensity storms,” said Dr. Asbury (Abby) Sallenger, USGS oceanographer and project lead. “Ongoing accelerated sea level rise in the hotspot will make coastal cities and surrounding areas increasingly vulnerable to flooding by adding to the height that storm surge and breaking waves reach on the coast.”

Global sea level has been projected to rise roughly two-to-three feet or more by the end of the 21st century, although it will not climb at the same rate at every location.

The report, Hotspot of accelerated sea-level rise on the Atlantic coast of North America, was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

source: U.S. Geological Survey

Published: July 3, 2012 | Updated: February 1, 2018