Remember anxiously waiting for report cards to see how your academic journey was going? Bad grades mean less fun on the weekends while good grades result in the greatest reward a human can ever receive, pizza for dinner! Recently 32 areas in the U.S. have been given “Sea Level Report Cards.” So, how is Virginia's coastal report card looking? Listen to this Question Your World radio report produced by the Science Museum of Virginia to learn more.
Like in any other situation these report cards are based on what's going on right now. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science often studies our coastal areas to see how they are doing. These report cards were created using more recent trends in tide gauge sea-level measurements and a wide variety of processes that can offset local trends in sea-level change from the dominant global trend towards higher sea level rise.
For those just tuning in, global sea levels are rising because the water in a warming ocean physically expands, like boiling water on a stove. We've done a lot of stories on local sea level rise that are worth checking out to better understand the big picture here. Also, we’ve got giant ice sheets like those in Greenland and Antarctica melting and thus adding more water to our oceans. While these are far off places, they are still very much so melting and absolutely impact the over all condition of the oceans. An international community of scientists agree that the addition of heat trapping gases to the atmosphere from human use is furthering these severe global problems.
Locally, in places like Norfolk, VA, the coastline is sinking primarily due to human use of groundwater resources and nearby ocean currents like the gulf stream cause the ocean to “bulge up” near the coast. Occurrences in this region like “recurrent flooding” are absolutely inconvenient and will be damaging to our oceanside communities for the discernible future. In regards to the report card, these processes together make Norfolk’s rate of sea-level rise the fastest on the entire East Coast!
Scientists agree that we need to take steps toward making our coastline resilient to these rising tides. Which means, we’ll be working towards better human health, safer standards of living, and yes…more pizza dinners!