2017-03-09 / News

Feds release dire report on rising sea level

The latest projection for rising sea levels forecasts a worst-case global scenario of 8 feet by 2100.

Recently released data by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicates — unfortunately for Jamestowners — the Northeast could experience an additional 1 to 3 feet of sea rise.

Robert Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers, co-authored the 60-page report titled “Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States.”

“About 6 million Americans live within about 6 feet of the sea level,” he said. “They are potentially vulnerable to permanent flooding in this century.”

According to a report from the state Division of Planning, there are approximately 7,000 Rhode Islanders living within the 7-foot inundation zone, which means those homes would be flooded if the sea rose 7 feet. Twenty-six of those properties are in Jamestown, including homes on upper Seaside Drive, at the Bay View junction, in the Dumplings and on the shorelines of Potter’s, Sheffield and Cranston coves. The only homes in the 5-foot inundation zone are the eight properties beginning at 16 East Shore Road and heading north.

During their research, NOAA scientists considered three major factors within the ocean: expanding mass because of melting ice on land, increased volume because of thermal expansion and the changing circulation of the currents. They also reviewed the ice sheets rapidly melting in Greenland and Antarctica. The calculations suggest a dire projection of 8.2 feet of sea-level rise globally in the next 83 years, which is 1.6 higher than the 2012 estimate. The report gives a range of possible scenarios, including a low projection of 1 foot by 2100.

In Rhode Island, approximately 154 square miles, or 14 percent, of the state’s 1,100 square miles of land are listed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as being in hazardous flooding areas, meaning there is a 1 percent chance of flooding in any given year. More than 16,000 buildings are within those areas.

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