Sea level report shows increasing pace of change along coast

Posted January 1, 2015

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— A report released on Dec. 31 shows the climate is changing along the North Carolina coast, and the sea level is rising faster in some areas than in others.

The North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission requested the study so that local communities and state leaders could better understand the science of sea level to inform development plans along the the coast.

State lawmakers rejected a previous study that predicted that the ocean would rise 39 inches on the North Carolina coast over the next 100 years.

Warren Judge, a Dare County commissioner, said that timeline was too long to be useful.

The latest forecast looks at a shorter period, just 30 years.

"30 years, that's something that you can envision and something you can plan for," Judge said. "100 years just becomes kind of a joke."

If sea levels continue to rise at their current rate, scientists predict the ocean could be nearly 5 1/2 inches higher on the northern Outer Banks in 30 years, and 2 1/2 inches around Wilmington.

But the report endorses the theory that climate change will hasten the rates of rising sea levels. It predicts a boost of just over a foot at Duck, on the northern coast, and four inches at Southport, near Wilmington, by 2045.

Judge says rising sea levels are, in his words, "probably real."

"I say it like that because don't want to join the hysteria of 'It's happening, it's happening!' but at the same time, I don't want to turn my back on it," Judge said.

Dr. Stan Riggs, a geologist at East Carolina University who contributed to the report, said developing the coast according to the status quo won't work anymore. His studies show the coast is already suffering the impact of rising seas, especially during storms.

"We have a history of change,” Riggs said. "We better realize those piles of sand are moving.”

Judge said Dare County is prepared to take rising seas seriously. 

“We have good building codes and build good, strong buildings," he said. "We need to be progressive about building.”

Any change in development strategy will require buy-in at the local and state level.

"The worst thing that can happen to us is the state agencies coming down with a lot of mandates,” Judge said. “You need to let the local people feed uphill to the state.”

The report will be peer reviewed and subject to public comment over the next year and a half before anything can happen at the state level.



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  • Johnnylaw Jan 6, 2015

    It's methane people, simple as that. Everywhere you look, researchers are seeing an increase, a huge increase, of methane releasing deposits. Most are under the ocean, with a few scattered on land. Methane is 10 times the greenhouse gas that CO2 is and in much more abundant volumes. 0.03% of CO2 in the atmosphere is nowhere near the levels found in other parts of climate history, and hardly levels that will cause warmer climate attributes. The fact is, thanks to all of the deforestation you heard so much about in the 80s-90s, the air can not be scrubbed as effectively. Why did they stop talking about planting trees? Because they can not tax deforestation in the numbers they can take you and I for breathing, cows for flatulence and factories for emitting mostly smoky looking steam.

  • John Ragan Jan 2, 2015
    user avatar

    the sky is falling ....the sky is falling. help me...... help me

    government reports , paid for by government grants written in a way so the government will give more grants to write more reports.

    It is ludicrous to think that the climate can be changed by taxation, legislation or regulation and only a progressive would have the ego to think they could

  • veyor Jan 2, 2015

    ..."the coast is already suffering the impact of rising seas, especially during storms". This whole thing is all about grants and money.

  • redfish Jan 2, 2015

    Wake county reached 1 million folks. I wonder how much wake county adds to climate change and sea level rise. Seems a few folks would punish those living along the coast with higher insurance and limited use of their property instead of looking at whom is causing climate change and sea level rise. Maybe the problem isn't the few who live on our barrier islands maybe it's we who live inland that are the problem. Maybe we should be paying them for their loss.

  • Bill Brasky Jan 2, 2015

    View quoted thread

    So the original point about ice cubes does not compare.

  • Mustang Jan 2, 2015

    View quoted thread

    No. I'm pointing out the absurdity of making a big deal of periodical rises and lowering of the sea levels over the ages. Man cannot do anything to change this, only adapt.

  • William Teach Jan 2, 2015
    user avatar

    I like how the story completely forgets to mention that a major cause of the difference is the land subsistence along the Outer Banks, which is in the report. You'd find this out at the Raleigh N&O and Charlotte Observer. Why was this not mentioned at WRAL?

    When we discuss media bias, this is a textbook example of creating a narrative using incomplete information.

    BTW, none of the sea rise is unusual in the least when we look at what it should be during the Holocene, which has an average rise of 6-8 inches per century. The rise during the 20th was 7 inches. We should actually expect greater sea rise, because the cool periods, which have lasted longer than the warm ones, will see lower or negative sea rise. That's how averages work.

  • Bill Brasky Jan 2, 2015

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    You should contact Climatelogists and tell them told you this. Have you researched Climatedepot? Those articles are written by Computer Engineer out of California paid by the Heartland institute.

    How Climatedepot became a scientific journal shows how easily Americans can be manipulated.

  • Ty Shrake Jan 2, 2015
    user avatar

    We're all gonna drown!

  • Mustang Jan 2, 2015

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    It also runs into the soil and evaporates into the atmosphere