Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sea level issues in Texas

Leigh Jones in the Daily News (Galveston, Texas) has a comprehensive story about some of the data and mapping issues that accompany sea level rise: Almost 80 percent of Galveston County households could be displaced by 2109 if water levels in the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay rise as quickly as they have during the past 100 years. Gauges at the Port of Galveston’s Pier 21 show the water is 2.3 feet higher today than it was in 1909.

If that trend continues, the rising water would chase thousands of homeowners away from the coast and cause billions of dollars in damage to the area’s water, sewer and utility systems, according to a study of sea level rise released earlier this month by three researchers from the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi.

But a well-known coastal geologist disagrees with the study’s findings, calling them extreme and alarmist. The world’s best scientists agree the sea level is rising at half that rate, he said. As alarming as a repeat of the last 100 years of sea level rise would be, the A&M researchers predict it actually could be much worse.

Estimates that the rate of sea level rise will remain the same are overly conservative, David Yoskowitz, one of the study’s authors, said. It is much more reasonable to expect the rate of sea level rise to increase during the next 100 years, which would submerge Galveston and other bay-front communities in 4.9 feet of additional water, Yoskowitz said. “If you look at our topography along the Gulf Coast, it doesn’t take much of a rise for that water to really work its way inland,” he said.

….Galveston County residents should be most worried about the contribution sea level rise will make to the next 100-year storm, Yoskowitz said. Using modeling software created by FEMA, Yoskowitz and his team simulated a Hurricane Ike-like scenario, which would have caused another $1.7 billion in damage in the three counties that surround the bay, if sea level was 2.3 feet higher than it is now....

An 1871 map of Galveston

No comments: