How sea level rise contributes to billions in extra damage during hurricanes – Yale Climate Connections

Storm Surge (by Scott Pena CC BY 2.0 via Flickr)

Sea levels have risen by about a foot along the coast of southwest Florida. That made Hurricane Ian’s storm surge even more dangerous.

When Hurricane Ian barreled into the coast of southwest Florida on Sept. 28, the mighty hurricane’s 150-mph winds drove a massive and destructive storm surge inland. A preliminary estimate from NOAA puts Ian’s damage at more than $50 billion, and damage estimates from some private insurers approach or exceed $100 billion. It’s likely that tens of billions of this damage was caused by a catastrophic storm surge of 10 – 15 feet, which leveled countless structures on the low-lying barrier islands just south of where Ian’s eye came ashore.

Had Ian hit a century ago, when sea levels were about a foot lower, the storm probably would have caused billions less in storm surge damage, judging by the results from two studies looking at storm surge damage from 2012’s Hurricane Sandy in New York. Taken together, the study results suggest that rising seas left a huge portion of U.S. coastal infrastructure – much of it built during the 20th century – vulnerable to storm surges.

Small increases in storm surge can cause huge impacts

A small amount of sea level rise – even just a few inches – can lead to significant damage during a storm surge event. Why?

To use a sports analogy, it’s because the interaction of a storm surge with a city is a game of inches and thresholds. Coastal cities are generally designed so that it takes a 1-in-100-year event (one that has a 1% chance of occurring in a given year) to cause substantial damaging flooding: A storm surge must rise to the base height of the city before it can flood large areas. But once the storm does cross that threshold, every inch of additional rise in water levels can flood large areas. And since just one inch of water in a 2,500-square-foot home can cause $27,000 in damage, and 12 inches can cause $72,000 in damage (according to FEMA), a few extra inches of storm surge can add up to a lot of damage in a hurry…

An Alaskan Town Is Losing Ground—and a Way of Life – the New York Times

Kivalina, a village facing coastal erosion (by ShoreZone CC BY 2.0 via Flickr).

For years, Kivalina has been cited—like the Maldives, in the Indian Ocean, or the island nation of Tuvalu, in the Pacific—as an example of the existential threat posed to low-lying islands by climate change…
On a visit to the state in 2015, President Barack Obama flew over Kivalina and posted a photograph of the island on social media from the air. “There aren’t many other places in America that have to deal with questions of relocation right now,” Obama wrote, “but there will be.” He described what was happening in the village as “America’s wake-up call.”
Seven years later, Kivalina’s move is still mostly in the future, even though the island continues to lose ground…

Can Development Laws Elevate Us Out of Sea Level Rise?

Watch Hill, Rhode Island (by Patrick Franzis CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr).

Watch Hill is an old neighborhood, where houses with names like Windridge, Waveland and Sea Swept began to take their positions on the ridge more than 160 years ago…
But Watch Hill’s most implacable foe has always been Mother Nature. In 1938, the Great Hurricane wiped fifty houses off Napatree Point, a finger of land curling into the sound. Today, the village is under the increasingly frequent assault of water coaxed by tidal force or blown in by Nor’easters over streets and parking lots, cutting off access to Napatree and giving the old house names a sardonic twist…

‘Sand is like gold.’ The pricey race to restore Florida beaches before the next hurricane – KOAM News Now

Miami Beach Lifeguard Towers Collage (by Anthony Quintano CC BY 2.0 via Flickr).

For decades, Florida has been restoring its beaches by dredging or trucking in more sand. But the practice is becoming more challenging — and expensive, thanks to the rising cost of beach-quality sand. Offshore sand deposits, especially on Florida’s southeast coast, are dwindling after decades of repeated beach restoration projects. As local governments squabble over the right to use the remaining sand, its price is rising.

“Sand is like gold,” said Michelle Hamor, the planning chief for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ office in Norfolk, Virginia, which is leading the effort to develop a $6 billion plan to protect Miami-Dade County from storm surge. “There are a lot of projects that rely on it, and it’s a limited resource.”

And looming sea level rise, which quickens the pace of beach erosion on developed coastlines, will only make Florida’s future efforts to protect its beaches more complicated and costly…

Over the past 87 years, Florida has spent at least $1.9 billion on beach nourishment, according to the National Beach Nourishment Database. The state government now spends about $30 million to $50 million a year maintaining its beaches, and local governments contribute about the same amount…

Florida beaches were already running low on sand. Then Ian and Nicole hit – the Washington Post

Daytona Beach, 20022 (by Jim Allen CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Fliickr)

In the days since Hurricane Nicole lashed this stretch of Florida coast with punishing winds and a powerful storm surge, contractor A.J. Rockwell has found himself on an urgent mission. He has to find sand — tons of it — and fast.

But these days the usual sources for sand…are running low. What can be found is pricey. Rockwell estimates each house needs at least 275 dump truckloads pushed underneath to be saved … comes out to $330,000 per home…

“I think we’re starting to discover that, despite our best efforts and wanting to throw as much money at this as possible, it has become very difficult to keep these beaches as wide as we would like to keep them,” Robert S. Young, a geology professor at Western Carolina University and director of the Program for Developed Shorelines… “We simply don’t have the capacity to hold all of these beaches in place.”

North Topsail is getting millions for beach nourishment. How long will the sand last? – Star News Online

Unspoiled Beach of North Topsail Island, 2018 (by Michael Au CC BY 2.0 via Flickr).

Last month North Carolina doled out nearly $20 million in grants to help coastal communities better fortify and rebuild beach infrastructure battered by recent hurricanes, tropical storms, and nor’easters.

“Coastal communities are facing more severe impacts from storms and flooding that require a greater investment in a resilient coastline,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in announcing the awards. “Working with local governments to invest in smart storm damage repairs will help combat the effects of climate change and ensure that North Carolina’s coast remains a beautiful place to live, work, and visit.”

But in a world where climate change is bringing higher seas and more frequent and ferocious storms to our shores, is investing taxpayer dollars in the sand that’s all but guaranteed to have a limited lifespan on the beach a smart investment?

Surfers, miners fight over South Africa’s white beaches – PHYS.ORG

Satellite view of the Olifants River Estuary, South Africa (image via Google Earth: Maxar Technologies AfriCIS(Pty) Ltd CNES / Airbus Data SIO, NOAA; U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO Terrametrics).

Diamonds, zircon and other minerals have long been extracted in the sandy coastline near the Olifants river, which flows into the Atlantic about 300 kilometres (180 miles) north of Cape Town.

But plans to expand the mining have angered surfers, animal lovers and residents in this remote, sparsely populated region—and they are pushing back with lawsuits and petitions.