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sea level rise

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HAMPTON, N.H. (October 24, 2015)– Coastal flooding is growing more dangerous and costly for people and businesses along America’s shorelines, according to a bipartisan group of local elected officials who spoke at a national summit on the issue today. The Rising Tides summit brought more than 35 mayors and local elected officials to Hampton, N.H., to discuss strategies to cope with increasingly severe coastal flooding amplified by sea level rise.

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The impacts of coastal flooding and sea level rise are already being felt by coastal communities across the United States. Coastal shoreline counties are home to more than 123 million Americans and account for nearly half the U.S. GDP. Homes, property and critical infrastructure within these communities face a growing threat from coastal flooding as sea levels continue to rise.

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While the climate change debate continues in some quarters in Washington, the impact of sea-level rise cut across political divides at the “Rising to the Challenge” conference in Norfolk, Virginia, earlier this week. Members of Congress and Virginia mayors from both political parties joined military and state and local officials to discuss the challenges sea level rise presents to the Hampton Roads area, as well as how to promote federal, state and local action.

“We cannot afford to do nothing, it is time to act,” Mayor Sessoms said, underscoring that the impacts of climate change are not a political issue, but a backyard issue threatening communities in Virginia.

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Miami ranks as the most vulnerable city in the world to the risk of coastal flooding caused by sea level rise.

Despite Miami’s vulnerability to sea level rise, there is reason to be hopeful: Many of the city’s local leaders and community residents are emerging as innovators in local climate action.

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As coastal communities across the United States continue to fall victim to drought, coastal flooding, and other impacts of extreme weather and climate change, leaders at the metropolitan and federal levels are beginning to take action. Yet, Congressional action is an essential but missing piece to comprehensively addressing climate change.

However, Florida's continuing sea-level rise vulnerability suggests Congress may shift its attention to climate impacts.

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The White House recently unveiled a new Climate Data Initiative. The initiative creates an online hub of government data on climate impacts, providing a detailed look at how a warmer world may impact critical infrastructure like bridges, roads, and canals. The platform provides a key tool for helping those at the frontlines of climate change—local communities.

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While leaders in Washington, D.C. grapple with a potential national economic crisis, in Florida, mayors and citizens are taking action—on climate change and sea-level rise, that is. Florida Atlantic University (FAU) will host its second annual Sea Level Rise Summit this week, bringing together national and international experts to discuss the impacts of sea-level rise and storm surge on local and national economies.

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“The time to act is now… We cannot afford to do nothing.”

This was the message of Mayor Will Sessoms from Virginia Beach, VA, delivered last Friday at a conference on "Adaptive Planning for Flooding and Coastal Change." Like so many cities along the Atlantic coast, Virginia Beach is at the frontlines of climate change, experiencing impacts like sea-level rise and recurrent coastal flooding. But as we learned at the event, the city and its surrounding communities are emerging as leaders in engaging in initiatives to address these issues.

“We are not as well prepared as we need to be to address the full scope of projected realities in the year 2100” Mayor Sessoms stated, “and we can, and must, make continued improvements.” His message was echoed by a group of bipartisan mayors and state delegates, city planners, legal experts, and university scientists. They stressed that while state and federal governments often struggle to move beyond the political debate of whether manmade climate change is happening, residents of the Tidewater area of Virginia are focused on developing a robust response to rising seas and recurrent coastal flooding.

Mayor Sessoms’ sentiments paralleled the earlier statements of Democratic Mayor Paul Fraim from Norfolk, VA that "[t]his is one of the greatest threats of our lifetime,” and “a threat that we can no longer afford to ignore."

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This post was co-authored by Forbes Tompkins, an intern with WRI's Climate and Energy Program.

This post is part of WRI's "Extreme Weather Watch" series, which explores the link between climate change and extreme events. Read our other posts in this series.

Almost seven years ago to the day since Hurricane Katrina made landfall, a new hurricane came ashore on the Gulf Coast near New Orleans. While Hurricane Isaac has been much less intense than Katrina, it has caused serious damage, with heavy rains, storm surge, and winds of up to 100 miles per hour.

Hurricane Isaac comes at the end of a U.S. summer season filled with extreme weather events. From heat waves to droughts to wildfires, the United States has seen little in the way of relief from severe events over the last several months. In fact, the majority of the lower 48 states are still facing drought. While Isaac may relieve drought conditions in some areas of the country, recent forecasts from the Climate Prediction Center project drought conditions to continue through large parts of the country at least through November.

America’s Vulnerability to Hurricanes and Tropical Storms

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