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Virginia Beach May Soon be In Your Backyard

July 31, 2009

Richmond - As scientists continue to study climate change, some are issuing more-dire predictions on melting ice and increases in sea level. Dennis Bushnell is one of them. As a chief scientist at the NASA Langley research center in Hampton, he says, as the world's overall temperature increases, the ice covering the Arctic and Greenland will melt and raise sea levels. Virginia's low-lying coastline makes it especially vulnerable, he says, and if all the ice melts, the ocean could rise more than 200 feet, or between 75 and 80 meters.

"At 75 to 80 meters, waterfront property in Virginia is somewhere between Richmond and Charlottesville."

Some computer modeling shows that the water trapped at the world's poles could be released within 150 years, he says.

"Some people are estimating that all the ice could melt. If all the ice melts, it's just geometry, which says the sea level could rise 75 to 80 meters."

The U.S. Senate is currently considering the nation's first substantive climate change legislation. The United Nations will hold a worldwide conference on climate change in Copenhagen in December.

While the scientists issuing this warning admit it is a worst-case scenario, they argue even a sea level increase of four feet would have a dramatic impact on Virginia's low-lying coastline. The UN-sponsored international group of scientists, known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has determined the world is warming and that the polar sea ice is at its thinnest in recorded history.

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA