Friday, April 06, 2012

'Surging Seas': N.J. in top 5 states most threatened by rising sea levels, study says

From: newjerseynewsroom  By: Angeloa Daidone

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The waters are rising, and New Jersey coastal communities are right in their course.

A study by a Princeton-based research group lists the Garden State as one of the top five states most threatened by rising sea levels which are increasing the likelihood of more catastrophic tidal flooding during storms, the Press of Atlantic City reported.

The study, titled "Surging Seas," said the seas are predicted to rise about 15 inches by 2050 in Atlantic City and Cape May. As a result, storms that used to be considered once-in-a-lifetime events will happen more frequently, the study said. Cape May and Atlantic City may see levels rise by half a foot by 2030, the study stated.

Researchers based their findings on current census population, existing topographical maps and digital map analysis showing inundation zones by each foot of water above the current average high tide line.

Of the 22 coastal states, Florida and Louisiana have the largest number of people at risk of being affected by sea level rise. New Jersey ranked fifth. Recent storms have seen an increase in severe flooding, impacting residential communities, major roads and businesses.

The combination of flooding from storm surges on top of an increased base sea level would put more than 200,000 people and 160,000 homes at risk in New Jersey, the study stated.

Storm surges from northeasters differ from hurricane and tropical storm surges, particularly because there is a limit to how high the water can reach, said a researcher at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. A northeaster storm surge only will reach about six feet, but will last much longer. A hurricane can bring a more localized high surge, but the coastal flooding will last only a short time, the report stated.

What's at stake in the long run is the main concern of the findings, experts said. Ratables and tourism dollars in vacation communities, residential property values, and beaches and natural coastlines will likely take a big hit if the issue is not addressed on a wide scale, experts said.

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