Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Students help California coastal communities brace for climate change

UC Irvine News: UC Irvine undergraduates Tristan Lanza and Enrique Uribe have been catching the bus regularly from campus down to Newport Beach to knock on doors. Lanza, 21, noticed the first time they neared the coast right where flooding would likely begin.

Back in UCI’s Engineering Tower, graduate student Adam Luke, 23, pores over computerized hydraulic models that he has spent weeks constructing of the Tijuana River estuary straddling the U.S.-Mexico border. This is where flooding would hit hardest, he thinks, gazing at a destitute Mexican canyon community. And here, he notes, taking stock of Imperial Beach on the U.S. side, is where higher king tides combined with fiercer storms could swamp several streets.

Two hours south, social ecology doctoral student Kristen Goodrich, 30,is at the wheel of a white van, driving carefully up a rutted street in one of Tijuana’s poorest neighborhoods. She snaps a photo of ramshackle homes accessed by rickety footbridges. “How would these people get out if water washed out those bridges?” she wonders.

Students of all levels and from many disciplines of UC Irvine are participating in the Flood-Resilient Infrastructure & Sustainable Environments – or FloodRISE – project, a $2.8 million, four-year interdisciplinary effort funded by the National Science Foundation. The aim is to help communities along the California coast and Tijuana River Estuary
better understand and cope with rising waters and stronger storms from climate change. They and their professors are sitting at strangers’ kitchen tables, crawling through culverts and using low-flying plane data to tackle the task.

“Climate change is the biggest challenge of my lifetime, and there’s a lot that needs to done besides reducing emissions,” says Uribe, 22, a senior graduating this week with a bachelor’s degree in political science. “This project is going to have very significant impacts, helping people in communities who are most at risk.”....

Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, CA Photo: Kurt Roblek/USFWS, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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