Local News

Study predicts dramatic beach changes

Posted June 24, 2011 1:53 p.m. EDT
Updated June 24, 2011 6:15 p.m. EDT

— A recently published study looking at sediment in the salt marshes at the Outer Banks concluded that rising seas could wipe out land, hurt property values and ruin coastal recreation.

The researchers found that since the late 19th century — as the world became industrialized — the sea level has risen more than 2 millimeters per year, on average. That is a bit less than one-tenth of an inch, but it adds up over time.

"I think we're looking at a six-foot rise," Outer Banks resident Todd Reynolds said. 

Reynolds moved to the area 10 years ago but has been visiting the beach most of his life. 

"We'll just be fishing 50 miles inland, closer to Raleigh," Reynolds said about the future. 

Reynolds was a little skeptical about the study, saying that science is less than perfect. 

"Problem is they're all trying to calculate one variable no one knows, and that's us," he said. 

Dare County Manager Bobby Outten said the science "isn't there yet." He is planning on a thriving beach community for years to come.

"I've been here 31 years, and it's different today than it was then. If you're asking me if it's going to be inundated with water and not be here because of sea level rise, I'm not there. I don't believe that to be true," Outten said. 

Lead researcher Benjamin Horton, who directs the Sea Level Research Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, said rising temperatures are the reason behind the higher sea level.