Populated U.S. Coasts Found Most Vulnerable to Climate Change

Photographer: Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg

Hoboken, N.J. was flooded on Oct. 30, 2012. An increase in precipitation, combined with sea level rise and storm surge, will increase flooding severity in some coastal areas, especially in the Northeast. Close

Hoboken, N.J. was flooded on Oct. 30, 2012. An increase in precipitation, combined with... Read More

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Photographer: Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg

Hoboken, N.J. was flooded on Oct. 30, 2012. An increase in precipitation, combined with sea level rise and storm surge, will increase flooding severity in some coastal areas, especially in the Northeast.

Bloomberg BNA -- U.S. coasts are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as sea-level rise, erosion, storms, and flooding, especially in the populated, low-lying areas along the Gulf of Mexico and the mid-Atlantic, according to a report released Jan. 28 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Sea-level rise and storm surge flooding pose significant threats to energy, water, and transportation infrastructure, which, in turn, endanger public health, safety, and jobs in coastal areas, according to Coastal Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerabilities: a Technical Input to the 2013 National Climate Assessment.

Rain and snow storms are expected to be heavier due to changes in the hydrological cycle from global warming, the report said. This increase in precipitation, combined with sea level rise and storm surge, will increase flooding severity in some coastal areas, especially in the Northeast, the study said. More than half of the U.S. population lives in counties that are in coastal watersheds, according to the report.

Related: Congress Completes $60.2 Billion in Hurricane Sandy Aid

Adaptation planning in coastal areas is increasing but is generally slow to be implemented, the report said. Adaptation can be improved through using more accurate and current scientific information and integrating adaptation plans into overall land use planning as well as ocean and coastal management plans, the report said.

Seventy-nine federal, academic, and other scientists contributed to the 230-page coastal report.

Contributing to Federal Report

The report is a technical input document for the National Climate Assessment, a federal government report on climate change impacts in the United States. The technical report was requested by the federal advisory committee that is preparing the draft NCA.

The federal advisory committee released a draft of the assessment Jan. 11. The draft NCA will undergo further revisions until it is approved in January 2014 and released in February 2014 (09 DER A-23, 1/14/13).

The NOAA-USGS report is one of hundreds of technical reports used for the NCA, said Virginia Burkett, chief scientist for climate and land use change at the USGS and co-lead author of the report. A draft of the report initially was submitted to the federal advisory committee in July, and the final report was submitted a few months later, Burkett said. “It was written to underpin the coastal chapter of the draft national assessment,” she told BNA Jan. 28.

One of 30 Chapters of National Assessment

The coastal chapter is one of 30 chapters of the NCA, which cover climate and science, different regions of the United States, and other topics. The authors of the coastal chapter drew heavily on the technical report to write the chapter, Burkett said.

Two of the chapter’s authors, Margaret Davidson, acting director of NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, and Denise Reed, professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of New Orleans, also served as authors on the technical report, according to Burkett.

The NCA has more than 240 authors across the 30 chapters. The technical report was available to all the authors, although the findings primarily show up in the coastal chapter and the chapter on climate change impacts on the U.S. Southeast region, Burkett said. Burkett is one of the authors of the U.S. Southeast chapter of the draft NCA.

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