Monday, January 17, 2011

Climate Change - North Carolina Gets It

Several years ago I attended a wedding in BC.   The groom's parents were a well-to-do couple from North Carolina.  He was a retired university professor, his wife was similarly accomplished.  As we chatted one of them mentioned their prized possession - a heritage home on the waterfront of one of their state's fabled coastal islands.  I asked them what was being done in their community to prepare for the onslaught of climate change and I was surprised to learn they had heard nothing about it.  It took them by surprise also.

Well, that was then, this is now.   There aren't too many North Carolinians now who aren't very familiar with the ravages of sea level rise.   According to the Charlotte Observer, coastal North Carolina is mobilizing for what is poised to be an increasingly costly struggle to hold the ocean at bay.

Water is rising three times faster on the N.C. coast than it did a century ago as warming oceans expand and land ice melts, recent research has found. It's the beginning of what a N.C. science panel expects will be a 1-meter increase by 2100.

Rising sea level is the clearest signal of climate change in North Carolina. Few places in the United States stand to be more transformed.

About 2,000 square miles of our low, flat coast 1 meter (about 39 inches) or less above water.

At risk are more than 30,500 homes and other buildings, including some of the state's most expensive real estate. Economists say $6.9 billion in property, in just the four counties they studied, will be at risk from rising seas by late this century.

Climate models predict intensifying storms that could add billions of dollars more in losses to tourism, farming and other businesses.

While polls show growing public skepticism of global warming, the people paid to worry about the future - engineers, planners, insurance companies - are already bracing for a wetter world.

Sea-level rise is happening now. This is not a projection of something that will happen in the future if climate continues to change,"   said geologist Rob Young of Western Carolina University, who studies developed shorelines.

...The Outer Banks, some scientists predict, could disintegrate into a string of high spots - Avon, Buxton, Ocracoke - reachable only by boat.

If storms punch new inlets through the islands, the brackish sounds and wetlands that serve as vital nurseries for Atlantic coast seafood species would turn into open saltwater. Predatory fish would pour into previously protected waters. Marshes would migrate inland or drown.

...It seems implausible that an almost imperceptible rise in the sea - about the thickness of two nickels a year - could cause such havoc.

But it took only an 8-inch global rise to threaten the iconic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which was 1,500 feet from the Atlantic when it was built in 1870. By 1999, when hydraulic jacks gingerly nudged the striped brick tower inland, waves crashed at its foundation.


Anonymous said...

How is this affecting the east coast of Canada? Or is the US the only place on the east coast of the continent to be concerned about. What about that?

The Mound of Sound said...

We don't seem to have the same topographical vulnerability as North Carolina. Their outer islands are more akin to the Maldives. The closest thing I can think of is Sable Island. Another factor is the greater frequency and severity of hurricane events in North Carolina. Yes we get more of that than ever but we haven't had to endure what the American southeastern coast experiences.