Thursday, August 23, 2012

Boston plans for 'near-term risk' of rising tides

Monica Brady-Myerov in KUHF FM News: In Boston, scientists are predicting that climate change will lead to dramatic sea level rise, and more frequent flooding, around the city. Officials are studying the potential impact on roads and sewers and are asking waterfront developers to plan for increased flooding. While many cities around the country grapple with drought and excessive heat this year, city planners in Boston have something else on their minds: the prospect of rising water.

In this coastal metropolis, scientists and computer models predict that climate change could eventually lead to dramatic increases in sea level around the city. Coupled with a storm surge at high tide, parts of the city could easily end up under water.

The area that's home to Boston's Faneuil Hall, the city's first public market, is one of them. The land the hall was built on was once waterfront property, but by the late 1800s, the growing city needed more room. So the marshes and mudflats along the wharf were filled in - and the city expanded.

"Now, today, more than 50 percent of downtown Boston is filled tidelands," says Jim Hunt, Boston's chief of environmental and energy services. Hunt helped Boston create a comprehensive climate action plan. It focuses both on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and on adapting to the dangers of a warmer climate such as heat waves, storms and the rising sea.

...Regardless of the ongoing national debate about climate change, Boston is calling the projected sea level rise a near-term risk. Projections range from 2 to 6 feet here by the end of the century, depending on how fast polar ice melts. Add to that a hurricane storm surge, and some models show parts of Boston under 10 feet of water. Researchers have told the city that by 2050, that could happen as often as every two to three years....

A view of the Charles River basin showing Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Longfellow and Harvard Bridges. The Massachusetts State House is lower right and MIT lines the far side of the basin, shot by ArnoldReinhold, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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