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Canada - Seawall damage a sign of things to come amid sea level rise and climate change, experts warn

The extensive storm damage to parts of Vancouver and West Vancouver’s waterfront on Friday may be a sign of things to come amid climate change and rising sea levels, experts warn.

Parts of the Stanley Park and Ambleside Park seawalls were left looking like they’d been hit by an earthquake after strong winds helped produce a storm surge at the same time as a seasonal king tide.

SFU earth sciences professor, John Clague, said the combination of those two factors was exacerbated by sea level rise, and that similar damaging storms are expected to increase in frequency in the years to come.

READ MORE: Damage assessment, cleanup begins along Vancouver’s storm-battered waterfront

“It’s a double whammy because you’ve got sea level higher, but you’ve also got the cyclic king tides stacked on top of that, which means that the types of event we saw on Friday are going to become more common and they’re going to be more damaging,” he said.

According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the global sea level has already risen by between 16 and 21 centimetres since 1900 — and the rate is increasing. About seven centimetres of that rise accrued in the last 29 years.

Estimates vary on how fast oceans will continue to rise, but the federal 2019 Changing Climate report projects the Vancouver area will likely see more than 50 centimetres in growth over 2000 levels by century’s end.

The B.C. government has advised municipalities to plan for a sea-level rise of 50 centimetres by 2050 and one metre by 2100.

“The sea level globally is slowly, slowly rising. Most people would not be aware of that because we have daily tidal fluctuations that go through four to five metres, so you’re just not aware this is happening slowly but persistently,” Clague said.

READ MORE: Powerful winds bring Metro Vancouver flooding, park closures and ferry cancellation

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