National Geographic Report, 'Rising Seas: Will The Outer Banks Survive?'

Jul 28, 2014

A Dare County sheriff's deputy walks down damaged Route 12 after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
Credit Steve Earley / Virginian-Pilot/AP

A new report from begins this way: "Development and climate change are causing the islands to slowly vanish, scientists say."

The tourists flocking to North Carolina's Outer Banks right now know that the joys of summer there—the gorgeous beaches, the wild horses, the views of the lighthouse at Cape Hatteras—come to an end as the season fades.

But they may not know that the place itself is disappearing from the map.

Under the combined effects of storms, development, and sea-level rise, portions of this narrow, 200-mile island chain are collapsing, says Stanley Riggs, a coastal geologist at East Carolina University in Greenville.

"We're losing them right now," he says. "In the next ten years, it's going to be awful."

The report cites Michael Orbach, professor emeritus of marine policy at Duke University's marine lab in Beaufort, North Carolina.

"All these effects that people have been talking about for years are now actually starting to be seen," Orbach says. "And they realize that we don't know what to do about it."

The multimedia story also delves into the topic of the controversial report "warning that North Carolina could face 39 inches (1 meter) of sea-level rise by 2100, as glaciers melt and ocean waters warm and expand."

Route 12 on Hatteras Island was cut in five locations by Hurricane Irene.
Credit Steve Helber / AP

>>Read the full story from National Geographic. The story was written by Sara Peach, a journalist and educator at UNC.

Sara Peach, from the UNC School of Journalism, photographs a rental home in Mirlo Beach. The sand underneath the home is eroding at a rate of 14 feet per year. Any method of entering the home has been washed out.
Credit Eric Mennel