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Is New Jersey Prepared for Rising Sea Levels? [AUDIO]

NEW JERSEY 101.5

With evidence that sea levels in New Jersey have risen by more than a foot over the last 100 years and are expected to continue going up, some experts believe sea level rise should be considered as the state continues to recover and rebuild from Superstorm Sandy.

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“We can expect sea level rise of another foot and a half or so by the middle of the 21st century, by 2050, and maybe as much as three to four feet by the end of this century in 2100,” said Anthony Broccoli, professor of atmospheric science at Rutgers University. “Those rises in sea levels are significant because they are going to increase the risk of flooding from storms. The kind of water levels we saw from Sandy will happen more frequently toward the end of this century because the baseline water level will be higher.”

Broccoli would like to see sea level rise taken into account when planning for structures that are expected to be around for a long period of time.

“When we’re thinking of buildings that may be around for 30, 40, 50 years or even longer, we have to recognize that sea levels will be higher and structures that today may seem out of harm’s way, may not be with higher sea levels,” said Broccoli.

Sea levels are rising globally, but here in New Jersey, the change is even more pronounced.

Twenty thousand years ago, large ice sheets pushed down on the earth’s crust just to the north of the Garden State. That caused the crust in New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland to bulge upward. Now that the weight of the ice is gone, the crust is slowly returning to its original position, which is causing the land to sink.

The extraction of groundwater for drinking water from the New Jersey coast is contributing to that sinking as well, causing the land to compact.

“At the same time the ocean water is going up, the land is sinking in New Jersey. That combination makes the local rate of sea level rise here in New Jersey higher than it is in most other places along the east coast,” said Broccoli. “Some decisions are policy decisions and there may be more than one potential answer. But, I think what’s important is to make sure that whatever decision is made, sea level rise is happening, it’s expected to accelerate and we need to be thinking of some ways of adapting to that.”

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