A combination of rising sea level and sinking land mass has put Delaware's shoreline in peril.
About 100 people attended the informative session Nov. 29 at Cape Henlopen High School – the largest number to attend the five statewide Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control events held throughout November.
“We are seeing sea level rise now and we believe the rates will increase,” said Susan Love, resource planner for Delaware Coastal Programs.
The sessions were held to gather public comments on rising sea levels. Comments will be used in a final report written by the Delaware Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee for policymakers throughout the state. Love said she hopes the report will be finished by next summer.
Using data dating back to 1900, a DNREC report on sea-level rise tracked sea-level increases for Lewes at about 0.13 inches a year. At the current observed rate, the report states sea levels could increase by 13 inches over 100 years.
Not only is Delaware’s sea-level rising; Delaware is also settling. According to DNREC's report, the vertical movement of the Earth's crust is causing the land in Delaware to slowly sink.
But it’s the increased greenhouse gases, heating up the earth and melting the ice caps, that are the primary cause of rising sea levels, said Chad Tolman, former DuPont chemist and college professor, and now a writer for the Climate Change News.
The earth’s rotation and tilt as travels around the sun also has an effect on the planet’s temperature, but to a lesser degree, Tolman said.
He said the earth’s rotation around the sun is moving away from a circular shape that allowed for a warming period over the past 100,000 years, to a more elliptical shape, indicative of past ice age periods. However, Tolman said, because the next ice age is not likely to occur for another 100,000 years, the effects of the warming rotation will be around for decades and centuries to come.
Based on the current rate of sea-level rise, Love said, government must make plans for public safety and the possible flooding of buildings and infrastructure.
Private property owners, especially those living in low-lying areas, should also be aware of the rising sea-level trend.
Many already are well aware of the rising water around them; Primehook Beach residents are already experiencing the dangers.
Prime Hook Road washed out after Hurricane Irene hit last fall, leaving many residents unable to travel to and from their homes.
Property owners living in low-lying areas have a few options to protect their investments, according to the DNREC presentation. Residents and municipalities could adapt to the rising tides by building higher foundations or installing sea walls or dikes. They also could decide to relocate structures and avoid building in high-risk areas. A final option would be to abandon the property. Read more