Sea Level Rising along Nation's West Coast, Posing Health Threats

Article excerpt

A growing body of research points to rising sea levels as a continuing concern, with possibly severe consequences for public health and safety.

A report released in June by the National Research Council looked at sea-level rise along the nation's West Coast and projected the rise will happen faster in the next few centuries than the global average. The report also found that the sea level rose during the 20th century and projections suggest that it will rise even faster during the 21st century. Sea-level rise is projected to be higher along the California coast than for Oregon and Washington, but all areas will be affected.

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"The sea-level rise will require coastal planners to think about how the coastline develops over the next hundred years because you have to take into account the sea level," Robert Dalrymple, PhD, the report authoring committee chair and professor of civil engineering at Johns Hopkins University, told The Nation's Health.

The report predicted a sea-level rise of up to 36 inches along California's coastline south of Cape Mendocino in the next century, and about 24 inches for the area north of the cape into Oregon and Washington.

"For some perspective, the two major international airports in San Francisco Bay--San Francisco and Oakland--were built on fill only a few feet above sea level such that 16 inches of sea-level rise such as could happen in the next decades could inundate those runways," said Gary Griggs, PhD, a member of the report's authoring committee and director of the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. …