Scientists say higher ocean levels will encroach on quickly-developing cities and towns
by Joe Glauber, Anchor/Reporter
WMTW news story
PORTLAND, Maine — This video is Part 2 of WMTW News 8’s three-part series on climate change and its projected effects on Maine. Tune in Wednesday, July 25th for Part 3 on how scientists anticipate Maine’s weather will change as a result of a changing climate. To watch Part 1 click here.
With nearly every new study, the projections of sea level rise from climate change become more dire. Though exact projections vary widely, scientists studying the issue agree that unchecked greenhouse gas emissions will continue to raise ocean levels.
These projections outline a particular concern for Maine, a state with several low-lying and ever-developing communities. The average projected sea level rise by the year 2100 spans a wide range, but many fall around one meter (about 3.3 feet).
However, that’s just the average high tide. King tides and storm surge can be added on to that gradual sea level rise and inundate populated areas with water.
Portland has gotten a sense of what that might look like, with flooding during storms and heavy rain.
That’s why Troy Moon, the city’s Sustainability Coordinator, is trying to help prevent Portland’s contribution to climate change, while preparing for the worst.
“We found that by 2100,” Moon said, “we should anticipate a minimum of four feet of sea level rise. And on the extreme end, 9 feet of sea level rise.”
It starts, researchers say, with the warming they believe humans are causing in the atmosphere. That excess heat is absorbed by the ocean, causing it to warm. The warming oceans and air are causing the sheets of ice across the northern Atlantic and Antarctica, around the South Pole, to melt.
As the ice caps shrink and feed more water into the ocean, there’s also less surface of the planet that is reflecting heat energy from the sun back into space. The white surface of the ice serves as a reflector, while the dark oceans and ground absorb more heat energy. This feedback loop causes an increase in the rate of warming.
Groups like the Natural Resources Council of Maine are trying to help mitigate Maine’s impact, while helping elected officials and citizens understand what this complex science means. Dylan Voorhees, their Clean Energy Director, says the economic impact on Maine could be huge, especially in tourist-heavy coastal towns.
“So, municipalities, state agencies, when they’re building bridges, when they’re putting in culverts, when they’re locating sewage treatment plants or other development, they need to look down the road,” Voorhees said. “And they need to anticipate that the coasts are not going to be where they are today.”