Sunday, January 6, 2013

Gulf swallowing Galveston faster than thought

Harvey Rice in the San Francisco Chronicle, via the AP and the Houston Chronicle: Rising sea levels are likely to cover the coastal highway on the unprotected west end of Galveston sooner than previously predicted. A 2007 study underwritten by the city of Galveston that anticipated rising sea levels would cover the highway within 60 years appears to have been overly optimistic.

The $50,000 geological hazard report was prepared for the city by geologists from the University of Texas, Rice University and Texas A&M University but then shelved. The report based its calculation on historic sea level rise and failed to include climate change. Sea levels are rising much faster than previous estimates that accounted for climate change, according to reports released in December by U.S. government scientists and in November by the World Bank.

"It's higher than the estimates they gave us five years ago," said Jim Lester, president of the Houston Advanced Research Center, whose scientists are experienced in coastal issues.

Sea-level rise may pose an even graver problem for Galveston than other coastal areas because the island is sinking at a faster rate than most other areas in the country, a condition known as subsidence. "If you assume subsidence will occur, that means sea-level rise will be even worse than in the rest of the country," said Stephen Gill, senior scientist with the National Oceanic and Aeronautics Administration, or NOAA.

Erosion and loss of protective wetlands are further eating away at the island, said Val Marmillion, managing director of America's Wetland Foundation. The island could shrink by one-third within 30 years, said Marmillion, whose organization based its conclusions on a $4.2 million study by Entergy of sea-level rise threats to the Gulf Coast....

Water in the streets of Galveston, around 1915, shot by Rex Dunbar Frazier


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