Coastal Flooding

Dec 4, 2013

A new study says the world must learn to live with an increasingly flood prone shoreline. 

But the report published by a Virginia Tech Professor in the journal “Nature” suggests there are things humans can do to mitigate the problem.  

A new research paper warns of growing risk of coastal flooding due to rising sea levels. Jen Irish, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering co-authored the report.

 “We have a lot of low lying terrain, sandy environments and these are particularly susceptible to sea level rise because another important finding in our paper is that sea level rise acts to erode the shore line, modify the barrier islands that are all up and down the east coast and the gulf coast and these types of effects could have a catastrophic impact on coastal flood risk," says Irish.

Irish, a coastal engineer, suggests there are steps we can take, such as raising more building on stilts or moving existing buildings where possible.

“But in other areas that it’s just not practical for either political boundaries, for example in Bangladesh, there’s only so many places people can go. We can’t move the port of New York; we have to keep it there so how do we protect it in place. And the same goes for critical infrastructure like our energy and water network or hospitals. We need to make sure we prioritize protecting these critical facilities.”

In their paper, the authors conclude the evidence is now clear that the moderate amount of sea level rise of the past few millennia is over and in most cases shoreline retreat is accelerating.  But, Irish says, there is hope.

 “Some other nations have had to deal with sea level rise for years. The Dutch have lived below sea level for centuries and have found ways to adapt and I think that brings a bit of hope to the situation.