According to new research led by Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) researchers at the University of Arizona, rising sea levels could threaten an average of 9 percent of the land within 180 U.S. coastal cities by 2100. Their recent paper in Climate Change Letters provides the first analysis of vulnerability to sea-level rise that includes every U.S. coastal city in the lower 48 with a population of 50,000 or more.
At the current rate of global warming, sea level is projected to continue rising after 2100 by as much as 1 meter per century. Impacts from sea-level rise could include erosion, temporary flooding and permanent inundation. The researchers found that the Gulf and southern Atlantic coasts could be particularly hard hit. Miami, New Orleans, Tampa, Fla., and Virginia Beach, Va. could lose more than 10 percent of their land area by 2100.
One of the researchers, Jonathan Overpeck (a lead principal investigator of CLIMAS and University of Arizona professor of geosciences), also published a perspective piece in Science calling for a new paradigm of more open, user-friendly data access, which is needed to ensure that society can reduce vulnerability to climate variability and change, while at the same time exploiting opportunities that will occur.
CLIMAS, housed at the University of Arizona's Institute of the Environment, was established in 1998 as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program to help reduce risk and enhance resilience in the face of climate variability and change. The CLIMAS program brings together researchers who study the processes and effects of climate on the Southwest with individuals and organizations that need climate information to make informed decisions.
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Americans’ health, security and economic wellbeing are tied to climate and weather. Every day, we see communities grappling with environmental challenges due to unusual or extreme events related to climate and weather. In 2011, the United States experienced a record high number (14) of climate- and weather-related disasters where overall costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. Combined, these events claimed 670 lives, caused more than 6,000 injuries, and cost $55 billion in damages. Businesses, policy leaders, resource managers and citizens are increasingly asking for information to help them address such challenges.
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