Report Explains How to Plan for Rising Sea Levels

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in collaboration with other agencies, has released a report that discusses the impacts of sea level rise on the coast, coastal communities, and the habitats and species that depend on them. The report, "Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-Level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region," examines multiple opportunities for governments and coastal communities to plan for and adapt to rising sea levels, according to a Jan. 16 press release.

Sea-level rise can affect coastal communities and habitats in a variety of ways, including submerging low-lying lands, eroding beaches, converting wetlands to open water, intensifying coastal flooding, and increasing the salinity of estuaries and freshwater aquifers. It is caused by natural and human-induced factors and can vary by region. Some impacts of sea-level rise can already be observed along the U.S. coast.

The primary causes of global sea-level rise are the expansion of ocean water due to warming and the melting of glaciers and ice sheets. Locally, sea-level rise is influenced by changes to the geology of coastal land, making coastal elevation mapping an important area of future study. The Mid-Atlantic region, the focus of this report, is one of the areas that will likely see the greatest impacts due to rising waters, coastal storms, and a high concentration of population along the coastline.

EPA led the development of the report with significant contributions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The report is one of 21 climate change synthesis and assessment products commissioned by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP). CCSP was established in 2002 to provide the U.S. with science-based knowledge to manage the risks and opportunities of change in the climate and related environmental systems. The program is responsible for coordinating and integrating the research of 13 federal agencies on climate and global change.

For information on the report, go to http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/effects/coastal/sap4-1.html.

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