Climate Change in Virginia

What will flood in Virginia if sea level rises 5-10 feet, or more...
What will flood in Virginia if sea level rises 5-10 feet, or more...
Source: Environmental Protection Agency, Maps of Lands Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise: Modeled Elevations Along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts

If the earth warms at rates predicted by some studies, the oceans will rise for two main reasons - the expansion of the existing water as it heats, and the addition of additional water as the ice melts off the land at Antarctica. Sea level rise will affect primarily the eastern edge of Virginia, while changes in rainfall/temperature will affect the entire state.

Scientists are monitoring two species that grow on rock outcrops in Shenandoah National Park, three-toothed cinquefoil and Appalachian fir clubmoss. Virginia's mountains are the edge of the current range for those species, so increased temperatures could cause the two species to disappear from Virginia.1

Sea level is rising at nearly an inch a century now. If that continues, in a thousand years the Eastern Shore, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, and Suffolk could be underwater or become offshore sandbars.

Sea level is rising faster than wetlands can migrate inland. One result is that the wetlans are sequestering carbon at a higher rate. Organic material is being buried, and carbon concentrations in the sediments are substantially higher than in the past.2

In the next century, the costs of insurance will reflect the perceived risks of flooding during a major storm. Insurance costs will rise, driving new development inland, long before buildings in Norfolk are recycled as oyster reefs or fish swim through the windows.

Seawalls and bulkheads can armor the shoreline temporarily. At some point, only retreat from the rising water will be cost-effective. Civic leaders who champion new development in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, such as the Tide light rail system, will be forced to consider the option of moving infrastructure further inland.

Will Norfolk (and the Rest of Hampton Roads) Drown?

the average temperature has been rising in Virginia since 1970
the average temperature has been rising in Virginia since 1970
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Temperature Trends by State

Links

References

1. "National park plants could indicate climate change," Northern Virginia Daily, June 12, 2014, http://www.nvdaily.com/news/2014/06/national-park-plants-could-indicate-climate-change.php (last checked June 17, 2014)
2. "As Sea Level Rises, Wetlands Crank Up Their Carbon Storage," Shorelines blog, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, https://sercblog.si.edu/as-sea-level-rises-wetlands-crank-up-their-carbon-storage/ (last checked May 10, 2019)

climate change will result in higher average temperatures in summer months  (1981-2010 on top, 2040-2059 on bottom)
climate change will result in higher average temperatures in summer months  (1981-2010 on top, 2040-2059 on bottom)
climate change will result in higher average temperatures in summer months (1981-2010 on top, 2040-2059 on bottom)
Source: Climate Impact Lab, Climate Impact Map


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