Dr. Norbert Psuty, Director  



The Effects of Climate Change
and Sea Level Rise on the Coast

Responding to Sea-level Rise

Adaptation - options for coping with the inevitable impacts of climate change.

None of the options are a "silver bullet." When responding to climate change, there is no simple answer. All of the following actions have drawbacks. It will be up to individual communities to decide the best option.

  • Hard structures (sea walls, groins, jetties)
    • In this case, as sea level rises up to the structure, the beach will more and more narrow until it no longer exists.
  • Beach nourishment (taking sand from an area that "doesn't need it" to fill in an eroding area of beach)
    • May seem like a great solution to coastal communities, but it is only temporary because of erosion and ocean currents. It also very expensive.
    • Pouring tons of sand onto a beach ecosystem completely covers the intertidal zone that is home to the prey species of shorebirds.
  • Easements (removing hard structures like houses and roads as sea level rises to let the beach and marshes naturally move landward)
    • Some programs (Coastal Blue Acres) already exist to buy coastal property from willing homeowners to preserve in order to allow the habitats to migrate.

Marsh Evolution

Get Involved: attend your local planning board meetings to keep yourself informed on how your community plans to deal with sea level rise - and have a say in what happens.



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Last Updated: 7 January 2015
Original pages by Lindsay Modugno, Jeff Pace, and Dan Lidor.