North Carolinians should get ready for a sea-level rise over the next three decades that could be as little as 3.5 inches on the southern coast and as much as 10.6 inches in the northern Outer Banks, a state science advisory panel said Tuesday.
The N.C. Coastal Resources Commission’s science panel released its new draft forecast to meet a timetable set by the General Assembly. Now the commission has 11 months to solicit public comment, consider whether to adopt new policies or regulations based on sea-level rise, and report to the legislature next March.
The 43-page report assesses scenarios for sea-level change around five tide gauges from Duck in Dare County to Southport in Brunswick County. The seas are rising faster along the northern coast, the panel said, for two reasons:
▪ The shoreline is sinking faster north of Cape Lookout than south of it, because ancient geological forces are causing part of the North American continent to subside.
▪ Shifts in the speed and position of the Gulf Stream are pushing the seas higher along the mid-Atlantic coast north of Cape Hatteras.
The report comes from the commission’s advisory panel of 10 geologists and coastal engineers chaired by Margery Overton, an N.C. State University engineer.
If the seas continue climbing steadily at rates measured in recent years, the rise is expected to range between 2.4 inches at Southport and 5.4 inches at Duck.
But panel members believe instead that sea-level rise will accelerate, reaching as much as 10.6 inches at Duck. They plot North Carolina’s future based on low or high levels of greenhouse gas emissions and using global data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.