At the height of hurricane season in September I join the annual migration of a group of surfers to Cape Hatteras to catch the swells. One of the popular, well known surf spots we go is named S Turns, after the bends in the road, located at the northern end of Rodanthe. Over the past 7 years I have body surfed where the ocean has been progressively overtaking exclusive beach front cottages and causing the road to be rebuilt. The most famous of these cottages is the "Serendipity" house which was featured in the movie "Nights in Rodanthe". Before the owners moved it off the beach, I used the house for shade when I needed a break from the surf and sun.
All barrier islands are inherently unstable. They respond to shifting currents, storms and the build up and transport of sand and fine sediment. Human actions, such as dredging and jetty construction, to stabilize barrier islands can unintentionally lead to sand starvation and increased erosion rates. Hurricanes are frequently blamed for damaging the islands, but storm driven overwash actually built the chain of islands and inlets served as pressure valves to let storm water out.
Hurricane damage can be repaired. Gaps can be filled and bridges built. We are planning to meet again this September near Hatteras.
NC DOT closing the inlet formed at S-Turns, north of Rodanthe
Sea level rise, however, is like an ongoing tsunami. It keeps on coming. It's more relentless than a honey badger that's found a new hive. It is eating up Pea Island year after year, storm after storm. The most destructive force to barrier islands is rising sea level. The Outer Banks don't stand a chance against rising seas driven by the melting of glaciers and thermal expansion of the ocean caused by a rapidly warming climate. Pea Island is one big storm away from oblivion.
Ultimately, rising sea level will overrun all barrier islands from the Jersey shore to Miami Beach from Florida's pristine Gulf shores to south Padre Island on the Texas Gulf Coast. Sea level rise of about 20 feet will happen over the next 500 years or so (a rate of a meter per century) if we meet the goal of limiting global warming to an average of 2°C (3.6°F). If we fail to slash emissions and trigger multiple warming feedbacks sea level rise could be much faster higher.It happened in the last interglacial, the Eemian period, 125,000 years ago. The study of corals around the world has confirmed what I saw when I was bodysurfing on the west side of Kauai. I saw beach sands at an elevation of about 20 feet at the base of lava rock cliffs above the town of Waimea, where Captain Cook discovered Hawaii. Those sands are the remnants of beaches from the last high stand of the Pacific ocean. Uranium dating methods applied to corals around the world now found at about 20 feet above sea level reveal that these corals are of Eemian age - 125,000 years old.
These data indicate that global (eustatic) sea level peaked 5.5 to 9 meters above present sea level, requiring smaller ice sheets in both Greenland and Antarctica relative to today and indicating strong sea-level sensitivity to small changes in radiative forcing.Much of Florida will be submerged. Southern Louisiana will be overtaken by the sea and New Orleans will be lost to the storm surges and tides. Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks will drown. This is the best case scenario environmentalists are working hard to achieve.
Billions and billions of dollars of damage will happen to major port cities as sea level rises. We aren't going to stop it. I can see it happening every year I go back to Hatteras.
During the last interglacial period, ~125,000 years ago, sea level was at least several meters higher than at present, with substantial variability observed for peak sea level at geographically diverse sites. Speculation that the West Antarctic ice sheet collapsed during the last interglacial period has drawn particular interest to understanding climate and ice-sheet dynamics during this time interval. We provide an internally consistent database of coral U-Th ages to assess last interglacial sea-level observations in the context of isostatic modeling and stratigraphic evidence. These data indicate that global (eustatic) sea level peaked 5.5 to 9 meters above present sea level, requiring smaller ice sheets in both Greenland and Antarctica relative to today and indicating strong sea-level sensitivity to small changes in radiative forcing.Fortunately, the estimated rate of about 4 feet of sea level rise in one hundred years is slow enough that society can respond. Places such as Virginia Beach and Rodanthe will see the effects first because they are in sea level rise and erosion hotspots. We can live with 20 feet of sea level rise over 500 years. It's shocking to think of what will be lost, but it's a long way into the future. If we let global temperature increases go higher than 2°C we will have problems with America's food supply in the next 50 years. The present drought conditions may become the new normal in decades. And then things will get worse.
I am fighting to stop the unfathomably catastrophic consequences of exceeding 2°C. I am fighting to save the Amazon rain forest from going up in smoke and turning into savannah. I'm fighting to save the farms and vineyards of southern Europe from resembling north Africa. I am fighting to save the breadbasket of America from climate change that will make it resemble Amarillo Texas. We cannot quit, we cannot lose hope because our grandchildren would be left a Road Warrior world.
Climate models run by NCAR's Aguio Dai confirm earlier studies that show the catastrophic drying of America's bread basket under high emissions scenarios. Famine and global conflict will be the inevitable consequence of allowing greenhouse gas emissions to continue to grow. Last years drought in Texas and Mexico and this years drought in the midcontinent are the start of this process of warming and drying that we must stop.
If you happen to wander over to Mitt Romney’s website, try to decipher his policy positions on climate change. But don’t look too long; climate change isn't even mentioned once.
The stakes are too high to play politics with our lives. Please sign our petition that asks Mr. Romney two simple questions:
When enough people ask, 350.org will deliver this petition to Romney campaign headquarters to see if he's ready to answer.
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