Tuesday, November 18, 2014

US East Coast Sea Level Rise...The Real Skinny...

Keep the map in mind as you read.

The threat of Sea Level Rise is shaping our future on Planet Earth.

Here are some of the ways we will be affected.

Picture a huge tropical storm moving North.

It's 2053.

There are newly constructed seawalls and offshore barriers lining the coast from The Carolinas to NY City.

Here comes the biggest storm on record, and it is growing as it progresses.

The warming Ocean is providing the fuel.

Hurricanes that would normally diminish as they pass over cooler Northern waters are now retaining their full tropical strength because the warmth is moving further up along the coast.

The warming Ocean is also expanding; creating higher tides and more powerful storm surges than ever before.

This is the first big test of the coastal protection projects we have all been paying for since the "Hurricane Sandy" panic of the early 'teens.

Days pass as the storm makes its way up the coast.

There is flooding and damage in the storm's wake, but consensus is that the barriers served their purpose.

"It could have been much worse."

The storm surge has been diverted Northward by the barriers.

Let's call this storm "Hurricane Abel".

"Abel" is now off the coast of NY City, stalled and gathering strength,

The continuous string of coastal barriers is behind it.

The power of the surging Ocean sits bottled up and churning beneath the stalled monster.

The upper atmosphere between NY City and Cape Cod lightens, as cooler air drops down behind the Jet Stream.

The barometer rises slightly.

"Abel' roars forward into the cooler, lighter air with enormous force.

Look where it's going to hit land.

Once it passes Long Island, the eye moves over Buzzard's Bay, the choke point South of Cape Cod.

The storm surge follows the lay of the land and hits New Bedford exactly at midnight on a full moon high tide.

A twenty foot tide, topped by several feet of storm surge, driven by 100 mph winds and the entire thrust of The Atlantic gouges its way over the land.

Everything from New Bedford through The Cape Cod Canal is awash.

The Ocean breaks through as Cape Cod Bay fills with storm tossed, floating debris while countless tons of chemical laden silt settles along the bottom.

The Canal boundaries are destroyed as acres of the shore, bridge supports, and roadways are washed away.

The Outer Cape becomes an instant island.

But Manhattan and seaside homes from The Carolinas to the Jersey Shore survived.

The barriers took a beating but served their purpose.

Next comes the worst part.

This storm is not done yet.

It doesn't subside until the eye passes The Canadian Maritimes, creating one disaster after another.

And, this is happening during a busy Hurricane Season.

Another huge storm could arrive within weeks.

If a second storm follows, there will be a new trench along the Ocean bottom, on the seaward side of the coastal barrier, caused by the flow from "Able".

The East Coast Trench will act like a gutter, accelerating the undersea flow as the second storm moves Northward, undermining the barrier, and forcing the storm surge directly toward Cape Cod with even greater force and direction, like an undersea river following its bed.

The cut through Massachusetts quickly becomes permanent.

Looking back on the damage, further South, engineers discover that portions of the continuous barrier not appearing damaged during storm number two are now crumbling and slipping into the sea with every tide change.

Steady flow through the seaward trench has washed away the barrier's underpinnings.

If a third serious Hurricane develops before repairs can be done, it will result in total undermining and eventual destruction of the barrier, leaving nothing behind but enormous chunks of debris, waiting to be tossed ashore by ensuing storms.

We know they're coming...NOAA latest...12.18.14...

We also know it will take a long time and vast amounts of money to repair the barrier.

It took decades and billions of dollars to build.

The results are not a pretty picture.


That's one version.

A scary fantasy?

Not if all the coastal protection projects under development get funding and are implemented.

Take another look at the map.

Keep in mind that if a barrier is constructed off North Carolina, the protection for Baltimore and Philadelphia has to be inside, closer to shore than the more Southerly, North Carolina barrier.

If not, the Southerly barrier will do nothing more than divert the water behind the Northerly ones.

Like shingles on a roof, the barriers have to overlap in the direction of flow or the water will pour inside and flood the area behind.

As we approach NY City, storm barriers will necessarily be more elaborate and ever closer to shore.

The only option for locales North of NY City will be fifty foot seawalls.

Think about the futility of that scenario for a minute.

We cannot turn the East Coast into The Netherlands, Folks.

This is The Ocean we're talking about here.

The Ocean does as it pleases, when it pleases, where it pleases.

Right now, it appears that The Ocean is expanding.

Earth's Shoreline is changing.

We better start adapting, rather than battling this phenomenon, or we will find ourselves up the creek without a paddle, with a 20' wall of water rushing relentlessly toward us.



What's the upside?

Here it is.

Back to 2053.

Along with building the coastal barrier we have also developed highly efficient tidal generators in response to the naturally sustainable power produced by Sea Level Rise.

The cut through Massachusetts remains open and becomes a hub for tidal generation, powering the entire region.

Another benefit comes from tidal electric powered ferries running from the mainland to the new Cape Island.

Tourism booms as the entire recovery process becomes the best thing to happen along New England's coastline since Cod.

We're proven resilient.

This time we could also be smart ahead of the game and not push the issue until there's no choice but reverting to good ol' Respond/React.

Respond/React leads up the raging creek I mentioned earlier.

Heads up...!


Back to Shoreline Earth.

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