Sea levels around the world are rising at a global rate of 1.7mm/year. While that doesn’t sound too dramatic, that rate is twice as high in the Chesapeake Bay region. In fact, sea levels in the region are rising faster than in any other region on the Atlantic coast of North America.
The Geological Society of America has published a new paper in GSA Today, its member news magazine, titled “Pleistocene relative sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay region and their implications for the next century.” The paper explained that DC residents will see the effects of the rising sea levels in their lifetimes.
City planners and engineers need to act fast. By 2100, sea levels in Chesapeake Bay will have potentially risen almost half a foot, which will surely be accompanied by an increase in flooding and other natural disasters.
The data in the study suggests that rising sea levels in the region are not solely due to climate change. The phenomenon has actually been occurring for 25,000 years due to “forebulge,” which is an elevated area at the edge of a glacier caused by tilting of the lithosphere.
Ben DeJong, geologist and coauthor on the study, explained the phenomenon in an article on EurekAlert.
“It’s a bit like sitting on one side of a water bed filled with very thick honey, then the other side goes up. But when you stand, the bulge comes down again,” he said.
Coastal communities are particularly at risk because of this phenomenon, and some measures are already in place to prevent its effects. The paper’s authors explained that organizations like the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge are already putting contingency plans in place.
“The elevated risk of flooding in the Chesapeake Bay region is already triggering a societal response. At the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, managers are designing corridors for the landward migration of habitat through easements and land acquisition to ensure the persistence of tidal marsh beyond AD 2100,” the paper reads.
The authors caution that this analysis likely underestimates Rising Sea Level, because it does not factor in climate change. As such, they conclude that any resiliency plans should factor in all sea level estimates.
Follow @bbhdc for the latest in DC urban planning issues.