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…More intense hurricanes, coupled with rising seas, could spell disaster for low-lying areas. The National Environmental Trust, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group, on its Web site proffers a scientifically based simulation of what could happen to Tybee Island in 40 to 90 years if a Category 2 storm hits, and if seas already have risen three feet—a scenario postulated by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In the simulation, Tybee is completely submerged.
Tybee has an average elevation of 10 feet to 12 feet above sea level, and according to the most recent storm surge map, about 25 percent of its land—mostly along the north end, on the beach—is vulnerable even to a Category 1 storm. Phillip M. Webber, director of the Chatham Emergency Management Agency, which handles Tybee’s emergency preparedness, acknowledges that a Category 5 storm—when coupled with wave action and rainfall—could submerge the island, at least for a while. Curry, who has seen the Tybee simulation, calls it a reasonable view of what could happen, but she points out that it is a “100-year issue.”
In the near term, however,
“There is climate change. It is getting warmer. Sea levels are starting to rise as rapidly as they have during this whole interglacial time period that we’re in right now,” he says. “But to take that and attribute it to man’s efforts is difficult right now because of the short time span.” Alexander does attribute coastal erosion—which is affected by rising seas—to human activity.
Much development on