Scientists foresee losses as cities fight beach erosion

Scientists foresee losses as cities fight beach erosion

Beaches are facing off against a changing climate, and they’re losing ground. Literally.

Waves, currents, storms and people all move the sand that make beaches, well, beaches. But a combination of rising sea levels, stronger coastal storms and coastal development means that sandy shorelines are increasingly disappearing, leaving the millions who live there facing major challenges in a warming world.

“Sea level rise of one foot or a foot and a half per century is basically inundating and drowning the shoreline,” Norbert Psuty, professor of coastal geomorphology at Rutgers University, said.

A common solution to beach erosion is beach nourishment, a process that pumps sand from dredging ships offshore to replace the lost sand on the beach. But this process is time consuming and costly and often needs to be repeated every few years to maintain the beach.

“As a short term solution, it’s OK if you’re doing this to allow for changes to be made to reduce the infrastructure and to allow the system to return to quasi-natural state,” Psuty said.

Yet, the motive behind beach nourishment often has more to do with protecting shoreline property and the tourism industry from rising seas than allowing beaches to return to their natural state.

“Development is absolutely responsible for the majority of the beach nourishment,” Andrew Coburn, assistant director of The Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University, said. “Well over 99 percent of the shorelines that are nourished are developed so there is some economic value placed behind them.”

 

Source: Climate Central

Date: August 2015

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