Higher Sea Level Projections Required Along U.S. Coasts


President Barack Obama issued an executive order on Friday,January 30, 2015, directing federal, state and local agencies to incorporate projections for sea level rise in planning and construction along the coasts.

The new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard requires that all federally funded projects located in floodplains, including buildings and roads, be built to withstand flooding. The requirement, the White House said in a release Friday, would “reduce the risk and cost of future flood disasters” and “help ensure federal projects last as long as intended.”

“It is the policy of the United States to improve the resilience of communities and Federal assets against the impacts of flooding,” the order states. “These impacts are anticipated to increase over time due to the effects of climate change and other threats. Losses caused by flooding affect the environment, our economic prosperity, and public health and safety, each of which affects our national security.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. can expect to see up to two feet of sea level rise by the end of the century, largely due to climate change. Warmer temperatures are causing thermal expansion in the oceans, as well as the melting of sea ice, which is pushing sea levels higher globally. A study from the U.S. Geological Survey found that half of the U.S. coastline is at high or very high risk of impacts due to sea level rise.

This is a significant shift, as agencies have typically used historic information on sea level and flooding for planning, rather than future projections. The order directs agencies to use the “best-available, actionable hydrologic and hydraulic data and methods that integrate current and future changes in flooding based on climate science” when evaluating what is in the flood plain. They also have the option of building 2 feet above current base flood elevations for “non-critical” infrastructure and 3 feet above for “critical” infrastructure, or building to the standard of the 500-year flood (a flood with an estimated 0.2 percent chance of happening in any given year).

The Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience released a set of recommendations last November, and establishing this type of guideline was among them. Most coastal regions of the United States will see 30 or more days of flooding by 2050 as a result of sea level rise, according to NOAA predictions.

NOAA’s researchers looked at the anticipated frequency of what the National Weather Service considers nuisance flooding, which are floods that are 1 to 2 feet over the regular local high tide and are enough to cause problems but not pose active threats to human life. Some areas of the U.S. are already seeing increased flooding, the researchers said, and it’s only going to get worse.

“Coastal communities are beginning to experience sunny-day nuisance or urban flooding, much more so than in decades past. This is due to sea level rise,” William Sweet, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services and the report’s coauthor, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, once impacts are noticed, they will become commonplace rather quickly.”

The research was published in the American Geophysical Union’s peer-reviewed online journal Earth’s Future. The projections are based on data from NOAA tidal stations with at least a 50-year continuous record. Warming global temperatures cause thermal expansion of the oceans and also melt ice sheets, leading to sea level rise. The researchers also note that while much of the rise is fueled by climate change, there are parts of the country where the land is sinking as well, adding to the challenge.

The low-end expectations for sea level rise from the researchers’ analysis project a 1.5 feet increase by 2100. Sweet said that within 30 to 40 years even that low-end projection would increase flooding in many areas “to a point requiring an active and potentially costly response.” And by the end of the century, Sweet said, “there will be near-daily nuisance flooding in most of the locations that we reviewed.” The high-end projections of sea level rise they looked at would put the increase much higher, at 4 feet.

Among the places that can expect flooding sooner rather than later, according to the study: Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, the District of Columbia, San Diego and San Francisco.

About Mike Neuman

Identical twin; Long-time advocate of protection of our environment; Married; Father to three sons; Grandfather to one granddaughter; Born and raised in Wisconsin; Graduate of University of Wisconsin; post graduate degrees in agricultural economics and Water Resources Management fro UWMadison; Former School Crossing Guard for City of Madison; Bike to Work for 31 years with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Retired from DNR in 2007; Biked to school crossing guard site 2 X daily for 7 years retiring in 2019; in addition to being an advocate of safeguarding our environment, I am also an advocate for humane treatment of animal, children, and people in need of financial resource for humane living. I am presently a Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, Madison, Wisconsin. I oppose all long (>500 miles) distance travel (via fossil fuel burning) for nonessential purposes and all ownership of more than one home. I am opposed to militarism in any form particularly for the purpose of monetary gain. I am a Strong believer in people everywhere having the right to speak their minds openly, without any fear of reprisal, regarding any concerns; especially against those in authority who are not acting for the public good?in a timely fashion and in all countries of the world not just the U S.. My identical twin, Pat, died in June 2009. He was fired from his job with the National Weather Service despite having a long and successful career as a flood forecaster with the Kansas City National Weather Service. He took a new position in the Midwest Regional Office in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, Pat’s work for the NWS went sour after he began to see the evidence for concern about rising global temperatures shortly after relocating to Minneapolis, and how they appeared to effect of flooding on the Red River that flows out of Canada before entering the U.S. in North Dakota. . Pat and I conversed on a regular basis with other scientists on the Yahoo Group named “Climate Concern “ and by personal email. The NWS denied his recommendation to give his public presentation o n his research at the “Minneapolis Mall of America” in February 2000, which deeply affected h,im. I will h He strongly believed the information ought be shared with the public to which I concurred. That was the beginning of the vendetta against my brother, Patrick J. Neuman, for speaking strongly of the obligations the federal government was responsible for accurately informing the citizenry. A way great similar response to my raising the issue of too many greenhouse gases being emitted by drivers of vehicles on Wisconsin highway system, my immediate supervisors directed: “that neither global warming, climate change nor the long term impacts upon the natural resources of Wisconsin from expansion of the state highway system were to be any part of my job requirements, and that I must not communicate, nor in a memorandum to all the bureau, shall any person who works in the same bureau I do communicate with me, neither verbally on the phone, by email.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: