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Planning for Climate Change on the Virginia Coast

PHOTO: Many want Gov. Terry McAuliffe's Climate and Resiliency Commission to plan for sea-level rise on the Virginia Coast, in part because of storms such as Hurricane Sandy. Photo courtesy of NASA.
PHOTO: Many want Gov. Terry McAuliffe's Climate and Resiliency Commission to plan for sea-level rise on the Virginia Coast, in part because of storms such as Hurricane Sandy. Photo courtesy of NASA.
April 2, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. - Governor Terry McAuliffe's office wants to plan for climate change. Many want his Climate and Resiliency Commission to look at sea-level rise.

Chris Miller recently retired from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He helped write a report on what's coming as the sea rises with melting ice at the poles.

Miller says they expect the ocean off Virginia's coast to rise as much as five feet by the end of the century. He says that means more dangerous storms, such as Hurricane Sandy.

"The rise of sea level ratchets things up - it makes it easier for the storm surge and the accompanying waves to penetrate farther inland, as the base is higher now," says Miller.

Some people connected to the oil-and-coal industries have described climate change as a hoax. One of Miller's associates described that as "like burying your head in the sand at the water's edge at low tide."

Miller says the Virginia coast is also sinking, in part because people are taking water from underground aquifers. But he says over time more of the rising seas will be from climate change - melting icecaps and glaciers, plus the swelling of warmer ocean water. He says the problem is the seas are rising slowly and that makes it hard to plan for.

"It's always difficult for people to look beyond next year, look ahead a decade or multi-decades," says Miller. "Sea-level rise is kind of insidious. High tide comes, but then it goes away, but sea-level rise doesn't go away."

The governor's Climate and Resiliency Commission will meet at University of Richmond on April 21. There will be a symposium on the subject just before the meeting and both are open to the public.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA