AS ocean waters warm, the Northeast is likely to face more Sandy-like storms. And as sea levels continue to rise, the surges of these future storms will be higher and even more deadly. We can’t stop these powerful storms. But we can reduce the deaths and damage they cause.
Hurricane Sandy’s immense power, which destroyed or damaged thousands of homes, actually pushed the footprints of the barrier islands along the South Shore of Long Island and the Jersey Shore landward as the storm carried precious beach sand out to deep waters or swept it across the islands. This process of barrier-island migration toward the mainland has gone on for 10,000 years.
Yet there is already a push to rebuild homes close to the beach and bring back the shorelines to where they were. The federal government encourages this: there will be billions available to replace roads, pipelines and other infrastructure and to clean up storm debris, provide security and emergency housing. Claims to the National Flood Insurance Program could reach $7 billion. And the Army Corps of Engineers will be ready to mobilize its sand-pumping dredges, dump trucks and bulldozers to rebuild beaches washed away time and again.
Climate warming does not force sea-level rise (SLR) at the same rate everywhere. Rather, there are spatial variations of SLR superimposed on a global average rise. These variations are forced by dynamic processes1, 2, 3, 4, arising from circulation and variations in temperature and/or salinity, and by static equilibrium processes5, arising from mass redistributions changing gravity and the Earth’s rotation and shape. These sea-level variations form unique spatial patterns, yet there are very few observations verifying predicted patterns or fingerprints6. Here, we present evidence of recently accelerated SLR in a unique 1,000-km-long hotspot on the highly populated North American Atlantic coast north of Cape Hatteras and show that it is consistent with a modelled fingerprint of dynamic SLR. Between 1950-1979 and 1980-2009, SLR rate increases in this northeast hotspot were ~ 3-4 times higher than the global average. Modelled dynamic plus steric SLR by 2100 at New York City ranges with Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scenario from 36 to 51 cm (ref. 3); lower emission scenarios project 24-36 cm (ref. 7). Extrapolations from data herein range from 20 to 29 cm. SLR superimposed on storm surge, wave run-up and set-up will increase the vulnerability of coastal cities to flooding, and beaches and wetlands to deterioration.
Marseille’s Melting Pot: As Europe Sees More Immigrants, Is the Multicultural City of Marseille a Vision of the Future?
It’s tempting to say, and probably true, that no rule made by Paris goes unbent in the city of Marseille. The capital of Provence has a well-deserved reputation as a rough and unruly place, a port that attracts all kinds of contraband and all kinds of people, some of them contraband too. Over the centuries, they’ve mostly come by sea—mingling, scheming, brawling, coupling, feasting, and drinking with unashamed and unapologetic flamboyance. The city has served as a refuge for people fleeing persecution, pestilence, and poverty. Recently its sizable immigrant influx has been largely of Muslim origin, and today when you gaze from one of Marseille’s many beaches across the Mediterranean toward the unseen North African coast, you can almost imagine a human deluge on its way as the spreading unrest in the Arab world pushes more refugees and job seekers toward the shores of Europe.
If you listen to far-right politicians, you’ll think this immigrant wave means, inevitably, an onslaught of Islamic puritanism that will challenge European ways and force every woman to dress like a Taliban bride. But then you realize that many of the men and women jostling around you on the Marseille sand are from African and Arab backgrounds, and that the young women are wearing bikinis, not burkas. Thanks to a remarkably efficient public transport system, you can get to Marseille’s beaches from any part of town in less than 45 minutes.
And so for several months of the year, rich and poor, white and black, African and Arab, Muslim, Christian, and Jew, all find their own space on the sand, strip off most of their clothes, and settle down to socialize—and be socialized— under the Provençal sun. Ask them where they’re from and you won’t hear Algeria or Morocco, the Comoros islands or even France. Almost always they’ll simply say, Marseille.
New Jersey is one of a tiny handful of places in the United States that makes people pay for the privilege of dipping their toes in the surf or spreading a blanket on the sand. Under a legal doctrine dating back to the Roman Empire, the ocean, bay and river shorelines are to be open forever to the public.
In practice, though, it doesn’t always work out that way. Well-to-do oceanfront homeowners fear an invasion of tourist hordes, with their noise, litter, loud colors and louder radios. Inland residents resent having to pay with their tax dollars to maintain beaches that officials in some shore towns make it hard for the public to use.
A Quinnipiac University poll released last week found 48 percent of New Jerseyans feel shore towns make it too hard for the public to use beaches, while 43 percent said the current level of access is OK. They also overwhelmingly said they want the state to mandate bathrooms near the beach — something the new rules don’t require.
Beach access advocates note that almost all of New Jersey’s progress over the last 50 years in ensuring outsiders’ beach rights has come through costly, draw-out litigation — often driven by the state itself. That’s why many are so upset that the state is relinquishing the stick in favor of the carrot.
Tourism is a $35.5 billion industry in New Jersey; 67.8 million people visited the state last year, many of them flocking to its beaches. Most shore towns realize they’re dependent on tourism to keep restaurants, grocery and liquor stores, gas stations and other businesses afloat, and to hold down permanent residents’ property taxes. Shore tourism and higher sales tax receipts also benefit the state.
But some shore towns seem to be just fine with mostly locals on their sand, and disagreements over who can and should use the beach sometimes take on elements of class warfare.