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Revised NC sea level report predicts rise along entire coast

Posted April 1, 2015

Nags Head, Outer Banks

— State officials are seeking public comment on an updated report that shows the sea level along North Carolina's coast will continue to rise over the next 30 years – most notably in the northeast by up to 10.6 inches.

Released Tuesday by the Coastal Resources Commission's Science Panel, the report presents three scenarios for rising seas along the coast through 2045, based on global predictions and historical data from five tidal gauges from Duck to Southport. Variations in geography and ocean currents mean the southeast will see the smallest increases – as few as 1.9 inches in one model – while the seas around Duck will rise much more quickly.

But the panel also emphasized that, regardless of the rate of rising sea levels, coastal residents should expect more frequent flooding in low-lying areas.

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The CRC's Science Panel used three scenarios to project sea level rise. One relies on historical data from tidal gauges, while the other two combine local data with global data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These models use the IPCC's low greenhouse gas emissions scenario and the high greenhouse gas emissions scenario.

SOURCE: Division of Coastal Management

The report updates projections made in 2010, as required by the General Assembly.

After a nine-month-long public comment period, the commission will finalize its report for lawmakers in March 2016 that might include recommendations for policy changes to help plan for the future. That means members must decide how to handle the uncertainty in the predictions.

That uncertainty is one of the reasons the panel, made up of engineers, geologists and marine scientists, chose to present three scenarios, a tactic also used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The first model shows more linear – and less pronounced – sea level rise based only on projections from historical tidal gauge data, ranging from an average 2.4-inch rise in Wilmington and Southport to an average 5.4-inch average rise in Duck.

The other two scenarios incorporate global sea level data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change based on the highest and lowest projections for greenhouse gas emissions. Combined with tide gauge data showing how quickly local coastlines are sinking, the models show a much faster increase in sea levels ranging from an average 5.8 inches in Wilmington to an average 8.1-inch rise in Duck.

Read the report

13 Comments

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  • Andy Barnhart Apr 1, 2015
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    I would say they summarize all the data to try to determine trends. The levels are up and climbing; some really low lying areas like Tuvalu in the Pacific are already looking at large scale evacuations. We don't live in areas with such a small margin of safety here, but advance planning appears to be warranted.

  • Jeff DeWitt Apr 1, 2015
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    No, the IPCC doesn't produce data, it cherry picks to get the answers it wants, it's a political organization, not a scientific one.

  • Jeff DeWitt Apr 1, 2015
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    The really high sea levels in the distant past aren't really relevant as the continents themselves have moved up and down... I've been on top of the mountain that has Carlsbad Caverns inside and that mountain is really a fossilized reef, but as the North American plate rose the sea drained away.

  • Phil Larson Apr 1, 2015
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    Watch this.

  • Tim Wallace Apr 1, 2015
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    10" over 30 years? Somehow I think we will adapt and survive.

  • Buford Justice Apr 1, 2015
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    Yes, yes... we humans are "wretched", aren't we? It's all our fault!

    Well, it's our fault except for the volcanic activity under the western Antarctic ice sheets that is melting huge ice sheets and will cause a sea level rise of between 3 and 7 feet. EXCEPT FOR THAT... yep, it's us monsterous humans. We really ought to just off ourselves to save Mother Gaia.

    http://www.techtimes.com/articles/8278/20140610/underwater-volcanoes-climate-change-reason-melting-west-antarctic-ice.htm

  • Phil Larson Apr 1, 2015
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    I once was blind but now I see, the earth is warming and so is the sea, God save us from wretched we.

  • John McCray Apr 1, 2015
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    Historical models are inadequate as our climate is entering a set of conditions that haven't existed since we began collecting data. And if you want to try and extrapolate information based on Geologic data, then the highest sea-level transgression extended to somewhere around present day Wilson. Sooo, it is a lot more difficult to regress models to match climate conditions of past geologic epochs.

  • Doug Hanthorn Apr 1, 2015
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    Actually, the IPCC doesn't produce data, it merely coordinates research. And in general, the IPCC has been criticized for being too conservative in its projections. I see nothing that would indicate that the IPCC has been discredited.

  • Jeff DeWitt Apr 1, 2015
    user avatar

    IF there is any real good in this report it is in the fist model, which is based on historical data. The other two scenarios are worthless being based on data from the IPCC, a discredited political organization.

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