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Sea Level Is Rising Most Rapidly in These Areas, and Now Florence Is About to Strike

09-10-2018

Scientists have warned for years about the danger hurricanes pose to the East Coast, in particular, the area stretching from Virginia Beach, Virginia, at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, to Charleston, South Carolina.  

And now, there's another concern. The low-lying land area along the bay and the Atlantic Ocean is sinking and more vulnerable to flooding.  

The Associated Press reports the affliction is known as relative sea-level rise, which measures the cumulative effect of sinking land and rising water.

Scientists explain that the land is sinking for many reasons.  At the top of the list – the loss of groundwater due to human activity and a bulge in the earth's crust created by ice age glaciers which is now slowly and naturally collapsing.

The land is sinking and the sea level is rising at such a rate in fact that according to The Center for Sea Level Rise at Old Dominion University in Virginia, the area could lose at least five feet by the end of this century.

Flooding in Virginia Beach, the Commonwealth's largest city, remains a constant problem in some areas. 

"People are seeing areas that never flooded before are starting to flood," Michelle Covi, an assistant professor of practice at Old Dominion University told The Chicago Tribune. "That's not just because the sea is coming onto the land, flooding parking lots," she adds. "It's because of rain, but when the sea level is higher, the rainwater can't drain."

One way to stem the sea-level rise is to restore the natural defenses like marshlands and vegetation along the coast, according to Covi.

But how do you adapt to fighting the rising water and limiting land development of coastal areas while at the same time, try to make a living from tourism?  

"I think in a tourist destination it's something a lot of people don't want to think about," Usher told the Tribune. "It's their livelihood. They don't want to think about, 'Hey, maybe this destination is not going to be here someday.' ... They can't even fathom that possibility."

The AP reports one approach that could soon be tested to combat the sinking land level is to inject millions of gallons of purified wastewater into the ground. The wastewater would meet all federal requirements and sampling would be conducted at regular intervals to make sure the water is up to drinking standards. 

Water injection to boost land levels is nothing new and could stop the land from sinking in theory. Researchers say the science behind the approach makes sense. 

However, other scientists say no one should expect any significant changes in land level with the water injection process. 

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