USA - NOAA's Nicole LeBoeuf: Let’s create a more equitable climate-ready nation

This spring, the world watched as two vacation homes in North Carolina were swallowed by the Atlantic Ocean and broken to bits on the sand. It wasn’t the first time that a camera recorded such destruction. What made the event startling was that it didn’t result from a hurricane or other natural disaster but from a strong, slow-moving but otherwise unremarkable storm.

The contrast of the average weather and not-so-average property loss was riveting. Similar scenes are playing out from California to Massachusetts, from Florida to Texas.

When asked about this recent event in his home state, William Sweet, NOAA National Ocean Service scientist and sea-level rise expert, told reporters the weather had pushed water levels about 2 feet above what is commonly dry land at high tide that day, causing a condition that is becoming a new normal along these coastlines.

NOAA tracks water levels at 142 tide stations across the nation to better understand the impacts of such changes in sea levels.

Some stations have operated for more than 150 years while new ones come online each year. As a result, we know that in many areas, places that were once inland are now inundated more often, even during average storms or sunny days.

NOAA’s research team documents the changes each year and, as a part of the 2022 Interagency Sea Level Rise national report, is projecting a rise in sea levels of many locations of about 10-12 inches in the next 30 years. This will be as much as the rise measured during the past 100 years. Models also indicate that by 2050, moderate flooding — the flooding that causes damage — will occur, on average, more than 10 times as often as it does today.

Climate change does not discriminate. Waves hit beaches, storms sweep inland and entire communities come to a screeching halt as a result of the endangered lives and property destruction during surges and floods. Everyone feels the impact when essential infrastructure, such as roads, refineries, schools and hospitals, is hobbled by the encroachment of sea-level rise.

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