Knowledge Amid a Changing Climate

Jul 20th, 2014 | By | Category: Development and Climate Change, News

There are three main choices: People can try to adapt to climate change, prevent it or deny it.

Denial has so far mostly been the province of certain politicians and their moneymen, leaving everybody else to find ways to deal with the impact of the rising seas.

A group of scientists from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science has a big idea to help consider the big floods likely to be exacerbated by rising waters and sinking lands in Hampton Roads: A storm-surge barrier across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

As The Pilot’s Aaron Applegate made clear in his story last week, the scientists aren’t suggesting that we actually undertake such a mammoth – and multi-billion-dollar – project.

But they say that thinking about it would help scientists understand the complex dynamics of the bay’s hydrology and ecosystem, and the effects of severe weather. It would help them study the impact of surges on places like Hampton Roads, Baltimore and D.C.

The scientists already know that a storm-surge barrier underneath the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel wouldn’t do anything to prevent the kind of flooding Norfolk saw during the November nor’easter in 2009.

Indeed, according to Applegate’s story, the scientists expect a floodgate would make things worse, since that nor’easter drove water down the bay, rather than in from the Atlantic Ocean. A gate could also lower oxygen levels and do other damage to life in the bay.

That analysis, in some sense, is likely to help researchers trying to evaluate floodgate proposals elsewhere, including Hampton Roads, where adaptation is just beginning. That alone makes the research worth pursuing.

If nothing else, the exercise provides a greater opportunity for researchers to develop a more-informed perspective, which should lead to better planning and decision-making that actually helps protect communities from being submerged.

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