From: TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
Published December 3, 2012 06:04 AM

Planning for Climate Change

The Metcalf Institute at the University of Rhode Island recently held the second in series of seminars on climate change.  Here are a few noteworthy points that were offered Nov. 30 by 15 scientists, engineers, planners and other experts:

Snowpack in the Northeast has decreased its annual volume by 11 percent since 1900.

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Sea level is projected to rise between 2.5 and 6 feet by 2100. "If you want to see what 5 feet of sea level rise will look like, you look at Hurricane Sandy," said Bryan Oakley, a URI researcher and professor of earth sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Rebuilding on the coast after storms is ultimately futile, according to Oakley, an expert on shoreline erosion. "Retreat is the only sure option. The others are just Band-Aids."

Oakley recognized the reluctance of owners to give up their land. One possible option for keeping shorelines assessable, he said, is to build impervious road surfaces that adjust to the forces of erosion.

Coastal cities, Oakley said, face bigger challenges than beach communities, as elevating metropolises would be a massive and costly undertaking.

The National Park Service is adapting to climate change by replacing structures at its coastal parks with movable buildings. Asphalt parking lots are being replaced with permeable, clay-based materials and clamshells.

Salt marshes are considered ideal for coastline protection, especially during storms. It’s been asserted that marshes accrete, or essentially grow taller, as the sea level rises. But Wenley Ferguson, Save The Bay's restoration coordinator, said marshes may not be to keep up with rising sea levels, especially as erosion accelerates along their edges.

Flood zones, as determined by FEMA, don't take into account expected sea level rise.

Lifeguard station image via Shutterstock.

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