Updated sea level rise outlook paints a concerning picture for the Rhode Island coastline

By: Tim Studebaker

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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WLNE) – A new multi-agency report on sea level rise is cause for concern for coastal communities everywhere, including right here in southern New England.

Paula Bontempi is the Dean of the URI Graduate School of Oceanography.  Bontempi says, “In the last climate assessment that came out in 2021 and in 2017, the prediction was that by 2100, sea level rise would increase by 1/3 to 1 meter by 2100.  Now, those estimates are 1/3 of a meter by 2050, so that’s a full 50 years earlier.”

A third of a meter, or roughly a foot, may not sound like much water, but the impact would be significant for the more than 7,000 homes and businesses along the Rhode Island coast.

Bontempi says, “The Earth’s climate is changing.  We’re getting more frequent and more intense storms: hurricanes, other local storms, things like that.  If you think about a stronger, more intense storm in a place where there’s already a foot of sea level rise, the impact can be quite significant.”

Bontempi says if we each make just a few environmentally conscious changes, it could go a long way toward helping mitigate further sea level rise.  Meanwhile, URI is working to prepare the state to deal with the rising waters.

Bontempi says, “Looking at infrastructure, looking at erosion plans, coastal elevation, when to evacuate people, how to protect ourselves, our livelihoods, and our infrastructure.”

She says coastal property owners should start to think about how to protect their properties.

Bontempi says, “This is a challenge of the environment that is well within our grasp to slow down and even change.”

To read the report and explore tools to visualize impacts in our area, click the following link: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/hazards/sealevelrise/sealevelrise-tech-report.html

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