Category Archives: Sea Level Rise

A 500 million euros Plan to strengthen levees in France


Seawall, Courseulles-sur-mer, Basse Normandie. Photo source: ©© Olivier Engel

Un plan de 500 millions d’euros pour consolider les digues en France.

By Bertrand d’Armagnac, Le Monde.

Quatre mois et demi après la catastrophe provoquée par la tempête Xynthia en Vendée et en Charente-Maritime, le Gouvernement a annoncé ce mardi 13 juillet, la mise en place d’un “plan digues” destiné à mieux répondre aux risques de crues et d’inondations en France.

Présenté ce mardi en Conseil des ministres par le ministre du Développement durable, Jean-Louis Borloo, ce plan prévoit le renforcement de 1200 kilomètres de digues fluviales et maritimes.

Sur la période 2011-2016, l’Etat souhaite mobiliser environ 500 millions d’euros afin d’aider au confortement de 1 200 km de digues sur un parc de près de 9 000 km. Le plan, dont la mise en place est prévue dès 2010, fera l’objet, dans les mois à venir, d’une concertation visant à l’enrichir et à le préciser. Il reprend notamment des pistes lancées lors des auditions devant le Parlement, sur les causes de la tempête Xynthia.

Read Original Article, Le Monde


A plan of 500 million euros to strengthen the levees in France.
Google English Translation

Four and a half months after the disaster caused by storm Xynthia in the Vendée and Charente-Maritime, the French Government presented Tuesday, July 13, in Council of Ministers, proposals for the development of a “Plan Digues” intended to better respond to flood risk and flooding in France.

Over the period 2011-2016, the State wants to raise about 500 million euros to aid in reinforcement of 1,200 km of sea walls and levees, on a fleet of nearly 9000 km. The plan, whose implementation is planned from 2010, will be in the coming months, an action designed to enrich and to clarify that. It includes such tracks launched at the hearings before the Parliament on the causes of the storm Xynthia.

“The state of protection works, overall concern and the lack of a suitable project management, pose real problems today,” said French Minister of Ecology, Francois Borloo. The system devised by the Department of Ecology take into consideration sea walls and levees along coastlines and rivers, as well as the natural lines of defense such as dunes, lagoons and swamps.

It encompasses not only the upgrading of the park dykes and restructuring of its management, but also reducing the vulnerability of areas at risk and better use of weather forecasting and warnings.

The plan to establish by 2011 a list of high-risk flood areas, identified as priorities, which will trigger the diagnosis and the securing of levees and natural systems involved. However, certain protective structures require urgent action and therefore the initiation of work before the spring tides in August and September. This is the case of dams damaged by the storm Xynthia who are already the subject of work launched in March, which should lead to a consolidation before reliable high tides.

For other works, the identification process is being completed in respect of river levees, and will be completed by the end of 2010. The diagnostic techniques for detecting the most dangerous structures will be established by end-2010 for all works damaged by Xynthia and before the end of 2011 for the entire coastline. This diagnostic work will be done on the sea walls and levees between late 2010 and late 2011.

The organization of project management is another issue to be addressed urgently. In France, almost one third of the sea walls has no known owner or is in the hands of local residents or municipalities with insufficient means.

Devices are to be found in order to ensure that sea walls’ maintenance and repairs are completed specifically when faced with owners with reduced technical and financial capabilities, or if they are unknown. A working group of State and local Governments Representatives, is to make proposals on this topic by the end of 2010, including a better definition of the legal framework for community response.

Another element of the Plan: the urbanization of areas at high risk. A greater control of these areas, including the ban on further construction in low-lying areas, is now recommended by the Ecology Minister. In order to manage urbanization, plans to prevent natural hazards (NRPP) will be completed or be reviewed within a maximum period of three years.

How High Will Seas Rise? Get Ready for Seven Feet

Sea Level Rise Glacier

By Robert Young and Orrin Pilkey.

The reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are balanced and comprehensive documents summarizing the impact of global warming on the planet. But they are not without imperfections, and one of the most notable was the analysis of future sea level rise contained in the latest report, issued in 2007.

Given the complexities of forecasting how much the melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets will contribute to increases in global sea level, the IPCC chose not to include these giant ice masses in their calculations, thus ignoring what is likely to be the most important source of sea level rise in the 21st century. Arguing that too little was understood about ice sheet collapse to construct a mathematical model upon which even a rough estimate could be based, the IPCC came up with sea level predictions using thermal expansion of the oceans and melting of mountain glaciers outside the poles. Its results were predictably conservative — a maximum of a two-foot rise this century — and were even a foot lower than an earlier IPCC report that factored in some melting of Greenland’s ice sheet.

The IPCC’s 2007 sea level calculations — widely recognized by the academic community as a critical flaw in the report — have caused confusion among many in the general public and the media and have created fodder for global warming skeptics. But there should be no confusion about the serious threat posed by rising sea levels, especially as evidence has mounted in the past two years of the accelerated pace of melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets.

The message for the world’s leaders and decision makers is that sea level rise is real and is only going to get worse. Indeed, we make the case in our recent book, The Rising Sea, that governments and coastal managers should assume the inevitability of a seven-foot rise in sea level. This number is not a prediction. But we believe that seven feet is the most prudent, conservative long-term planning guideline for coastal cities and communities, especially for the siting of major infrastructure; a number of academic studies examining recent ice sheet dynamics have suggested that an increase of seven feet or more is not only possible, but likely. Certainly, no one should be expecting less than a three-foot rise in sea level this century.

In the 20th century, sea level rise was primarily due to thermal expansion of ocean water. Contributions of melting mountain glaciers and the large ice sheets were minor components. But most climate scientists now believe that the main drivers of sea level rise in the 21st century will be the melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (a potential of a 16-foot rise if the entire sheet melts) and the Greenland Ice Sheet (a potential rise of 20 feet if the entire ice cap melts). The nature of the melting is non-linear and is difficult to predict.

Melting Ice

Seeking to correct the IPCC’s failure to come up with a comprehensive forecast for sea level increase, a number of state panels and governmentcommittees have produced sea level rise predictions that include an examination of melting ice sheets. For example, sea level rise panels in Rhode Island and Miami-Dade County have concluded that a minimum of a three- to five-foot sea level rise should be anticipated by 2100. A California report assumes a possible 4.6-foot rise by 2100, while the Dutch assume a 2.5-foot rise by 2050 in the design of their tidal gates.

Given the growing consensus about the major sea level rise on the way in the coming century or two, the continued development of many low-lying coastal areas — including much of the U.S. east coast — is foolhardy and irresponsible.

Who is at risk?

Rising seas will be on the front lines of the battle against changing climate during the next century. Our great concern is that as the infrastructure of major cities in the industrialized world becomes threatened, there will be few resources left to address the dramatic impacts that will be facing the citizens of the developing world.

The ramifications of a major sea level rise are massive. Agriculture will be disrupted, water supplies will be salinized, storms and flood waters will reach ever further inland, and millions of environmental refugees will be created — 15 million people live at or below three feet elevation in Bangladesh, for example. Governments, especially those in the developing world, will be disrupted, creating political instability.

The most vulnerable of all coastal environments are deltas of major rivers, including the Mekong, Irrawaddy, Niger, Ganges-Brahmaputra, Nile, andMississippi. Here, land subsidence will combine with global sea level rise to create very high rates of what is known as “local, relative sea level rise.” The rising seas will displace the vast majority of people in these delta regions. Adding insult to injury, in many parts of Asia the rice crop will be decimated by rising sea level — a three-foot sea level rise will eliminate half of the rice production in Vietnam — causing a food crisis coincident with the mass migration of people.

The Mississippi Delta is unique because it lies within a country with the financial resources to fight land loss. Nevertheless, we believe multibillion-dollar engineering and restoration efforts designed to preserve communities on the Mississippi Delta are doomed to failure, given the magnitude of relative sea level rise expected. Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt said in 2008 that it was an “ineluctable fact” that within the lifespan of some people alive today, “the vast majority of that land will be underwater.” He also faulted federal officials for not developing migration plans for area residents and for not having the “honesty and compassion” to tell Louisiana residents the “truth”: Someday, they will have to leave the delta. The city of New Orleans can probably be protected into the next century, but only at great expense and with little guarantee that future storms like hurricane Katrina will not inundate the city again.

Sea Level Rise Maldives

Pacific and Indian Ocean atoll nations are already being abandoned because of the direct and indirect effects of sea level rise, such as saltwater intrusion into groundwater. In the Marshall Islands, some crops are being grown in abandoned 55-gallon oil drums because the ground is now too salty for planting. New Zealand is accepting, on a gradual basis, all of the inhabitants of the Tuvalu atolls. Inhabitants of Carteret Atoll have all moved to Papua, New Guinea. The forward-looking government of the Maldives recently held a cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the ultimate fate of their small island nation.

The world’s major coastal cities will undoubtedly receive most of the attention as sea level rise threatens infrastructure. Miami tops the list of most endangered cities in the world, as measured by the value of property that would be threatened by a three-foot rise. This would flood all of Miami Beach and leave downtown Miami sitting as an island of water, disconnected from the rest of Florida. Other threatened U.S. cities include New York/Newark, New Orleans, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Tampa-St Petersburg, and San Francisco. Osaka/Kobe, Tokyo, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Nagoya are among the most threatened major cities outside of North America.

Preserving coastal cities will require huge public expenditures, leaving smaller coastal resort communities to fend for themselves. Manhattan, for example, is likely to beat out Nags Head, North Carolina for federal funds, a fact that recreational beach communities must recognize when planning a response to sea level rise.

Twelve percent of the world’s open ocean shorelines are fronted by barrier islands, and a three-foot sea level rise will spell doom for development on most of them — save for those completely surrounded by massive seawalls.Impacts in the United States, with a 3,500-mile long barrier island shoreline extending from Montauk Point on Long Island to the Mexican border, will be huge. The only way to preserve the barrier islands themselves will be to abandon them so that they may respond naturally to rising sea level. Yet, most coastal states continue to allow massive, irresponsible development of the low-lying coast.

Ironically, low-elevation Florida is probably the least prepared of all coastal states. Hundreds of miles of high rises line the state’s shoreline, and more are built every year. The state pours subsidies into coastal development through state-run insurance and funding for coastal protection. If a portion of those funds were spent adapting to sea level rise rather than ignoring it, Florida might be ready to meet the challenge of the next century. Let’s hope the state rises to the challenge.

Sea Level Rise

Despite the dire facts, the next century of rising sea level need not be an economic disaster. Thoughtful planning can lead to a measured retreat from vulnerable coastal lowlands. We recommend the following:

Immediately prohibit the construction of high-rise buildings and major infrastructure in areas vulnerable to future sea level rise. Buildings placed in future hazardous zones should be small and movable — or disposable.

Relocation of buildings and infrastructure should be a guiding philosophy. Instead of making major repairs on infrastructure such as bridges, water supply, and sewer and drainage systems, when major maintenance is needed, go the extra mile and place them out of reach of the sea. In our view, no new sewer and water lines should be introduced to zones that will be adversely affected by sea level rise in the next 50 years. Relocation of some beach buildings could be implemented after severe storms or with financial incentives.

Stop government assistance for oceanfront rebuilding. The guarantee of recovery is perhaps the biggest obstacle to a sensible response to sea level rise. The goal in the past has always been to restore conditions to what they were before a storm or flood. In the United States, hurricanes have become urban renewal programs. The replacement houses become larger and larger and even more costly to replace again in the future. Those who invest in vulnerable coastal areas need to assume responsibility for that decision. If you stay, you pay.

Get the Corps off the shore. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, more or less by default, is the government agency in charge of much of the planning and the funding for the nation’s response to sea level rise. It is an agency ill-suited to the job. Part of the problem is that the engineers’ “we can fix it” mentality is the wrong mindset for a sensible approach to responding to changing sea level.

Local governments cannot be expected to take the lead. The problems created by sea level rise are international and national, not local, in scope. Local governments of coastal towns (understandably) follow the self-interests of coastal property owners and developers, so preservation of buildings and maintaining tax base is inevitably a very high priority. In addition, the resources needed to respond to sea level rise will be far beyond those available to local communities.

Responding to long-term sea level rise will pose unprecedented challenges to the international community. Economic and humanitarian disasters can be avoided, but only through wise, forward-looking planning. Tough decisions will need to be made regarding the allocation of resources and response to natural disasters. Let us hope that our political leadership can provide the bold vision and strong leadership that will be required to implement a reasoned response.

Article in Yale E

La Faute-sur-Mer and l’Aiguillon-sur-Mer beaches, Vendée, France; By Claire Le Guern

La Faute-sur-Mer

The Memory of Risks

By Claire Le Guern

The very last day of February 2010.

It is 4:00 am. Howling winds, whipping rains, infuriated seas, and eight meter high (26 feet) crashing waves, are muffling the desperate cries for help…4:00 am… Twenty nine human lives are being swept away, drowned in the frigid and salty ocean waters. They were in their sleep, in their beds, in the comfort of their home. They did not understand, they could not react, most of them too old, too frail, or much too little to run for safety and climb on the rooftops, like most of the survivors did. That very night, hundreds of survivors were trapped for hours, trembling with fear and piercing cold, in agony, and battered by rain and incomprehension. Only lit by the full moon, in the darkest night of their life, all were waiting for the emergency crews and help to arrive.

Modern mankind appears to be the only species on Earth whose propensity is to migrate its habitat counter-intuitively, solely ruled by will, preference, and or greed, against Nature’s evolution.
—Claire

These are horrifying facts, eventually, yet tragically surpassed by an intolerable truth. The potentiality of such a disaster was well foreseen, and highly expected to occur. And it did, in France, one of the most developed and industrialized countries in the world, in the southwestern coastal towns of La Faute-sur-Mer and neighboring l’Aiguillon-sur-Mer. 

When daylight unveiled the disaster, Prime Minister François Fillon held an emergency cabinet meeting and afterward called the storm a “national catastrophe.” French President Nicolas Sarkhozy, declared: “We have to find out how families in France in the 21st-century can be surprised in their sleep and drowned in their own houses.” Mr. Sarkozy added, “We have to shed light as urgently as possible on this unacceptable and incomprehensible tragedy.”

As much as this tragedy is utterly unacceptable, it is all too comprehensible and sadly, previously announced by warnings from many scientists, locals, and even more relevantly by an official 2008 report from the Vendée Equipment Department, DDE. The risks of marine submersion were known to the Vendée DDE, which strongly addressed and questioned coastal safety, citing in particular the fragile sea walls in L’Aiguillon-sur-Mer and La Faute-sur-Mer, as well as their existing location and development in flood-prone areas. “There is no doubt about the vulnerability of the Vendée coast to marine submersion”.

La Faute-sur-Mer and l’Aiguillon-sur-Mer beaches are the most southerly beaches on the Vendée Atlantic coast. Blue flagged for cleanliness, gently sloping with fine golden sand, these beaches attract a myriad of visitors from around the world, each summer.

On the Atlantic side, 8 kilometers of fine sand beach and dunes pass by the town of La Faute-sur-Mer, located on a 10 kilometer long and 2 kilometer wide Peninsula, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side, then onward the Pointe D’Arcay. On the other side, there is an estuary and the Lay Bay with the Lay River. In front, lays l’Aiguillon-sur-Mer, the neighboring town. La Faute-sur-Mer fragile environment of sand dunes is stabilized by 200 hectares of pine forest and Holm Oak (evergreen Oak) which were planted nearly 150 years ago. This forest domain is continued by the Reserve Ornithologique of la Pointe d’Arcay.The Beach in the town of l’Aiguillon-sur-Mer is based around two man made lakes and has been developed with families in mind.

These coastal communities, however, have been built on areas that used to be swamps. The towns are 2 to 2.5 meters below sea level, on a polder, in other words, in a bowl. A 5 kilometers sea wall, the “Digue du Géni”, was built in 1860 at l’Aiguillon, and originally meant to protect the land for agricultural purposes. As for la Faute-sur-Mer, a sea wall was built in 1929.

L’Aiguillon-sur-Mer is the French capital of the mussel industry with over 20 percent of the nations production being cultivated in the estuary of the River Lay and the Anse de l’Aiguillon. The main attractions of the coastal towns besides the beaches are the Nature Reserve, and the off shore mussel farms.

Not anymore.

In the early hours of February 28th 2010, a well-forecasted storm named Xynthia swept through France with powerful winds of 160km/h 90 miles, leaving a trail of devastation, and 53 victims. About half the French death toll was attributed to marine submersion and breach of the dilapidated and too low sea walls of La Faute-sur-Mer and l’Aiguillon-sur-Mer, allowing waves and sea waters to flood the villages, trapping people in their homes.

Brice Hortefeux, France Interior Minister, declared, “What happened in Vendée, was an exceptional combination of facts.” Corroborating observers such as, P.Bouteloup, a physicist who specializes in tides, or Eric Mas, director of Météo Consult, said that a chain of events was to blame as well as “extraordinary coincidences”: unusually strong winds, enormous waves and, above all, very low atmospheric pressure drawing the sea level even higher, (on that full-moon night, the tide measured 105 to 108 on a scale of 20 to 120) creating a potentially fatal combination for these communities located on the Atlantic coast.

Unfortunately, in light of what was previously known by the DDE, even though not ordinary, these events were obviously far from being just and simply coincidental, and actually followed an all too announced plausible, and furthermore, predicted scenario.

France has up to 9,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) of sea walls, with some of them built in the 17th century, according to Secretary of State for Ecology, Chantal Jouanno. More relevantly, about one tenth of them, 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), “can be considered a risk”. The European Center for Flood prevention, estimates that of the 9,000 kilometers of sea walls, at least 3,600 kilometers have no existing or identifiable owners, thus no responsible entity to maintain, rebuild or repair the dilapidated or inadequate sea walls.

 “The sea wall that broke dates back to the Napoleon era. Either we build (new) sea walls, in which case they need to be taller, or we have to build further inland,” said Philippe de Villiers, President of the General Council of Vendée.

When sea walls or levees are needed, it is obviously to “protect” a land naturally flood-prone. And indeed, how strong can a sea wall possibly be in comparison with the unfathomable power of angry waves? How high can sea walls possibly be? Scientists are warning us that, due to climate change and rising seas, storms are expected to be stronger, fiercer and more frequent than ever before. The France Nature Environment group says the recent tragedy should serve as a “shock treatment” to the nation. The group added, “By 2100, global warming will cause sea waters to rise by one meter, allowing a small storm to do the same damage as powerful Xynthia did.”

A “Plan Digue” (a Sea Wall Project) has been ordered by the Government to be completed within the next two months. Financing and responsibilities are to be reassigned and already the pre-plan opens doors to polemics, in term of responsibility, financing, costs of repair and construction, as well as to fundamental debates.

Sea walls are currently owned by eclectical entities: towns, syndicates, even individuals. The State is not much involved in ownership (1,000 kilometers of levees, mostly on La Loire river). Furthermore, most of the sea walls and levees are owned by entities that do not have the necessary financial power to maintain them. According to Anne-Marie Levraut, director of natural and water risks, Ministry of Ecology, most often the existing sea walls were built to allow farming, then population rose but the response did not rise to the new situation.

The Plan Digue is expected to contain a five-year financing project; 1 million euros per kilometer is the estimated investment on building and repair of the French sea walls. However, a fundamental debate is needed as per the sea wall’s relevance as acceptable defense in itself, specifically when comparing to the Netherlands’ levees never-ending reviews to see whether standards should be raised in light of various threats. In 2008, the Netherlands announced more than 100 billion euros (then $140 billion) in new spending through the year 2100 to prepare for the effects of global warming.

As much as the sea walls were a large part of the problem, solutions should not be built up solely on such a questionable base. Squandering taxpayers money and more catastrophes are to be feared.

As l’Aiguillon mayor, Maurice Milcent, said “The breach in our sea wall, that was not the problem! The waters just rose at once, overflowing our communities, built on swamps, on a flood-prone area. The problem has been known since Napoleon’s era ” and added, “According to our regional construction codes, houses had to be “fishermen style.” Tragically indeed, at L’Aiguillon and La Faute-sur-Mer, most of the houses located right on the shorelines, were one story homes, to conform with local plans and legislation forbidding two story houses. This explains in part why so many drowned, unable to escape to higher levels.

The 2008 DDE report, preceded by published studies as early as 1999 and 2001, clearly stated that Aiguillon and La Faute-sur-Mer have been built: “On flood-prone areas, on soil temporarily won from the sea, without taking into account the “memory of risks”. That is where the problem resides and the solution rests! Unbridled urbanization on risk-prone areas along beloved, yet, hazardous coastlines.

The storm has definitely exposed major flaws in a well-developed western country’s housing planning.

Flooding is the number one natural risk in France. One out of three communities are potentially threatened, i.e. 5,1 million French people.

The last fifty years, the rate of urbanization of coastal and flood prone areas has dangerously increased. La Vendée, as most other coastal regions, has experienced an increase in popularity, attracting a population of more than 80,000 in the past decade, generating the construction of new houses perilously close to the country’s poorly protected shoreline. Many retired citizen flock to the western coast for its clement climate and more affordable lands.

As most industrialized and developed countries, France has adopted environmental laws addressing risks factors and management in determined areas. The Littoral Law of 1986 forbids construction at less than 100 meters from shoreline for buildings, and 2 kilometers for roads. Yet exemptions could too easily be obtained. A 1995 law, Major Risks Prevention Plan law, (La Loi Barnier du 2 Février 1995) was adopted, completing a 1982 law. It defines risk zones from white, to blue (dark blue and light blue) and red, and regulates construction interdiction levels from strict to permissible with specific requirements (regarding architecture and material used). The law was meant to install a flexible approach that would easily adopt to the needs of local and regional authorities. Under pressure, local executives, Mayors and General Council Presidents, continue to deliver construction permits, reluctant to recognize and comply with zoning. Since 2007, the French Government has had authority to intervene by expropriating any construction should a clear and present danger exist.

The Secretary of State for Ecology reported that 860 communities are below sea level in risky areas, but only 46 have Risk Prevention Plans defining zones where building is permitted, calling that “very insufficient”. To date, only 7600 Risk Prevention Plans have been approved. Since 1999, 100 000 homes have been approved to be built in coastal zones, known to be flood-prone.

“Each time a house is built, it’s money for the community,” said Léon Gendre, the mayor of La Flotte-en-Ré, an ancient town on the Ile de Ré, impacted by the flood as well. “Money is running all this.”

Chantal Jouano added, “We have to tighten up the rules regarding construction in flood-prone zones and behind sea walls, regardless of pressures.” President Sarkhozy declared that, “A reflexion must happen on urbanism. We cannot be lenient with safety.”

Before this very catastrophe, were all the cards not already on the table?

Under mounting scientific and environmentalist awareness and reports, as well as occurrences of announced and preventable disasters worldwide, concepts such as “the territorial intelligence” (see link) are developed. While opening necessary concerted actions between politicians, scientists, environmentalists and the people as a whole, implementation of knowledge to practical, sustainable and safer territorial development is promoted.

The point of all discussions should remain focused on stopping unbridled urbanization and preventing avoidable deaths and the gushing influx of taxpayers money by replicating past mistakes or investing in palliative, political and unadapted quick-fix solutions.

Modern mankind appears to be the only species on Earth whose propensity is to migrate its habitat counter-intuitively, solely ruled by will, preference, and or greed, against Nature’s evolution. Attempts to control disharmoniously the ultimately uncontrollable forces of Nature bear too costly a price for us, and future generations.

“We must be reasonable, and build further inland.” said Philippe de Villiers. We must be courageous as well, and seek implementation. In a speech to the victims, on March 16th, President Nicolas Sarkhozy declared he would ensure that, “All lessons were learned from this disaster, and would request local authorities to prevent zones devastated from being reoccupied.” To date, 30 construction permits recently granted in La Faute-sur-Mer and l’Aiguillon flood-prone areas, have been revoked.

Today, the memory of the tragedy is vivid and raw, as France is grieving and solutions are sought. In less than two months, the official report will be released, sadly titled “Plan Digues”… Will the “Memory of Risks” prevail?

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.” -Benjamin Franklin.

May cease the insanity, as the Seas are rising… ineluctably.


Latest Developments:

Xynthia Deadly Storm: The Trial Opens
Four years after a deadly storm devastated part of France west coast, killing 29 people in La Faute sur Mer town, the trial opens. Four elected officials and a real estate agent are indicted for aggravated manslaughter…

Le maire de la Faute-sur-mer René Marratier placé en garde à vue, Le Figaro, April 13th 2011
Les investigations sont menées dans le cadre d’une information judiciaire ouverte aux Sables d’Olonne pour “homicide involontaire”, “mise en danger de la vie d’autrui”, “abstention de combattre un sinistre” et “prise illégale d’intérêt.”

Xynthia : a Year Later, in Coastal Care

Xynthia : les chiffres de la tempête, un an après, Le Figaro

500 million Euros Plan to Strengthen Levees in France

1500 Homes are ordered to be destroyed, Euronews

1500 Maisons à détruire, Le Figaro

Disputed isle in Bay of Bengal

disappearing island

By NIRMALA GEORGE, Associated Press Writer

NEW DELHI – For nearly 30 years, India and Bangladesh have argued over control of a tiny rock island in the Bay of Bengal. Now rising sea levels have resolved the dispute for them: the island’s gone.

New Moore Island in the Sunderbans has been completely submerged, said oceanographer Sugata Hazra, a professor at Jadavpur University in Calcutta. Its disappearance has been confirmed by satellite imagery and sea patrols, he said.

“What these two countries could not achieve from years of talking, has been resolved by global warming,” said Hazra.

Scientists at the School of Oceanographic Studies at the university have noted an alarming increase in the rate at which sea levels have risen over the past decade in the Bay of Bengal.

Until 2000, the sea levels rose about 3 millimeters (0.12 inches) a year, but over the last decade they have been rising about 5 millimeters (0.2 inches) annually, he said.

Another nearby island, Lohachara, was submerged in 1996, forcing its inhabitants to move to the mainland, while almost half the land of Ghoramara island was underwater, he said. At least 10 other islands in the area were at risk as well, Hazra said.

“We will have ever larger numbers of people displaced from the Sunderbans as more island areas come under water,” he said.

Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 150 million people, is one of the countries worst-affected by global warming. Officials estimate 18 percent of Bangladesh’s coastal area will be underwater and 20 million people will be displaced if sea levels rise 1 meter (3.3 feet) by 2050 as projected by some climate models.

India and Bangladesh both claimed the empty New Moore Island, which is about 3.5 kilometers (2 miles) long and 3 kilometers (1.5 miles) wide. Bangladesh referred to the island as South Talpatti.

There were no permanent structures on New Moore, but India sent some paramilitary soldiers to its rocky shores in 1981 to hoist its national flag.

The demarcation of the maritime boundary — and who controls the remaining islands — remains an open issue between the two South Asian neighbors, despite the disappearance of New Moore, said an official in India’s foreign ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on international disputes.

Bangladesh officials were not available for comment Wednesday.

Original article

Erosion and Sea Level Rise on North Topsail Beach

Erosion and Sea Level Rise on North Topsail Beach, North Carolina

By Santa Aguila Foundation

Another documentary in The Beaches of The World series, World famous coastal geologist Orrin H. Pilkey, along with area locals, offer their perspective in North Topsail Beach, North Carolina, USA.

This documentary in The Beaches of The World series was made possible thanks to the generous contribution of Glenna Patton.

Topsail Beach Nourishement

Join our campaign to support the ban on hardened beach structures.

California panel urges immediate action to protect from rising sea levels

Maldives President Nasheer
President Mohamed Nasheed signs a declaration during the first underwater cabinet meeting in the Maldives

By Margot Roosevelt

As California officials see it, global warming is happening so there’s no time to waste in figuring out what to do.

California’s interagency Climate Action Team on Wednesday issued the first of 40 reports on impacts and adaptation, outlining what the state’s residents must do to deal with the floods, erosion and other effects expected from rising sea levels.

Hundreds of thousands of people and billions of dollars of Golden State infrastructure and property would be at risk if ocean levels rose 55 inches by the end of the century, as computer models suggest, according to the report.

The group floated several radical proposals: limit coastal development in areas at risk from sea rise; consider phased abandonment of certain areas; halt federally subsidized insurance for property likely to be inundated; and require coastal structures to be built to adapt to climate change.

“Immediate action is needed,” said Linda Adams, secretary for environmental protection. “It will cost significantly less to combat climate change than it will to maintain a business-as-usual approach.”

Few topics are likely to be more contentious than coastal development. But along the state’s 2,000-mile shoreline the effects would be acute, particularly in San Mateo and Orange counties, where more than 100,000 people would be affected, according to the 99-page state-commissioned report by the Oakland-based Pacific Institute.

Detailed maps of the coastline, published on the institute’s website, show that residential neighborhoods in Venice and Marina del Rey could find themselves in a flood zone. Water could cover airports in San Francisco and Oakland, parts of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and large swaths of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach.

Roads, schools, hospitals, sewage plants and power plants may have to be relocated. More than 330 hazardous waste sites are at risk from floods.

“The rising sea level could be California’s version of Hurricane Katrina,” said Michael Woo, a Los Angeles planning commissioner and urban planning professor at USC. “Taxpayers and insurance ratepayers might question their responsibility to help homeowners and businesses which knowingly build in high-risk coastal areas.”

California’s far-reaching adaptation initiative reflects an emerging global consensus: Scientists can argue over how fast the Earth is heating up and diplomats can wrangle over emissions caps, but politicians must begin planning for the certainty of climate change.

Maldives Underwater Meeting

Rising Seas to Destroy U.S. Beaches

By Andrea Thompson, LiveScience Staff Writer

You may have to kiss that summer trip to the beach goodbye later this century, thanks to rising sea levels and more intense tropical storms, scientists predict.

A new study of the potential sand losses to North Carolina beaches reports that a 1-foot rise in sea level in the next 25 to 75 years (which is at the lower end of the range predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) would cause the coast to move inland by 2,000 to 10,000 feet and could cost an estimated $223 million in lost recreational value by 2080 to beach-goers in that state alone.

Predicting exactly how much beaches will shrink is impossible because beach erosion rates are highly variable, even between points that are only a few miles apart. The make-up of each beach’s sand, the absence or presence of jetties and other man-made structures meant to retain sand, and offshore topography (which influences wave formation), all affect erosion rates.

But even with all the uncertainty, scientists say the future of our beloved sandy havens doesn’t look good.

“We have no way of predicting what sea level rise will do to erosion rates, except to say that they will increase,” said Duke University geologist Orrin Pilkey, who was not involved in the new study.

Forces of erosion

Hurricanes pose a particular threat to beaches because the floods of ocean water they can push onshore, called storm surge, can wash away large amounts of sand. Typically the sand returns to the beaches (so there’s plenty available to build that sandcastle or bury your dad). But if global warming intensifies hurricanes as some have predicted (either by increasing their frequency or the strength of individual storms), it may also impair beaches’ ability to recover.

For North Carolina’s beaches, the report says, even if hurricanes strike with their current frequency and intensity, sea level rise will make the effects of the storms worse.

Sea level rise is another ominous potential eroding force, at least for beaches that are highly developed. When seas rise, undeveloped beaches can simply shift further inland, but because roads, buildings and other man-made structures act as a barrier, the sand at developed beaches cannot migrate backward. Effectively, relentless waves will wear away the sand and these beaches will shrink until there’s simply no sand left for sunbathing or seaside strolls.

“We create the [beach erosion] problem,” Pilkey said.

In fact, Pilkey says, the building of jetties and sea walls may be doing the most damage for now, because while they preserve a small portion of the shoreline near the structure, they actually result in more coastal erosion further from the structure than would have occurred naturally.

“I suspect that may be more important than sea level rise,” he told LiveScience, but that trend will eventually change later, with global warming’s forces surpassing the impact of sea walls and jetties.

For West Coast U.S. beaches, erosion from sea level rise and storms is less of a threat than on the East Coast, because the “left” coastline tends to be higher and steeper, but that doesn’t mean beach-goers there are in the clear. One of the main sources of sand for these beaches is river transport, but dams built along western rivers block this sand, which causes the beaches to erode.

More crowded beaches

With beaches slowly vanishing from the coasts, vacationers might have to find some other way to entertain themselves and soak up the sun in the summer in the coming decades.

“I’m predicting that they [will take] fewer beach trips,” said lead author of the North Carolina study John Whitehead of Appalachian State University in North Carolina. The report was funded by the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan, non-profit group of energy experts.

By surveying beach-goers, Whitehead found that people prefer wider beaches, which provide more room for throwing Frisbees and eating sandy sandwiches. By determining how far people will drive to these roomier beaches and calculating the cost of those drives, Whitehead estimated the millions of dollars that would be lost to vacationers.

And for those for whom the allure of a vacation at the beach is simply irresistible, few options will be left, as the only beaches to survive would likely be the ones that are undeveloped now.

“People would have more limited beach options,” sociologist Maureen Harrington of Griffith University in Australia said in an email interview. “[They] would have to go to beaches that are able to migrate, that are not urbanized … so these beaches would be more crowded.”

Flocking to the Coast: World’s Population Migrating into Danger

By Sara Goudarzi, LiveScience Staff Writer

Population will grow along various coastlines and in already densely populated developing countries.

The number of people living within 60 miles of coastlines will increase by about 35 percent compared to 1995, the mapmakers say

This type of migration will expose 2.75 billion people to coastal threats from global warming such as sea level rise and stronger hurricanes in addition to other natural disasters like tsunamis. A reminder of the risks of seaside living came this week in the form of a tsunami that killed at least 350 people and devastated many on Indonesia’s Java Island.

The Earth is home to some 6.5 billion people and is projected to have 9 billion by 2050.

With more than half of Americans currently living on or close to the coast, the new map could become a useful tool for future urban planning and emergency forecasting.

The map was developed by scientists at the Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR) of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

“By bridging these two areas of demography—mapping and long-range, aggregate projections—we’re getting a better idea of where people are likely to live in the future and why,” said Stuart Gaffin, associate research scientist at CCSR and lead scientist on the project. “Hopefully, work like ours will play a central role in improving environmental policies around the world and in reducing natural hazard risks faced by the most vulnerable parts of society.”

Gaffin and colleagues predict that by 2025, fewer people will live in southern Eastern Europe and Japan and other regions whose inhabitants will head for places that provide them with better resources.

Other areas expected to show declines: sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South America, the Philippines, Nepal, Turkey, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), and Indonesia.