Panel Meets To Look At Sea-Level Rise... Again

Jul 22, 2014

A woman photographs a house as waves overtake its stilts on Mirlo Beach in March.
Credit Eric Mennel / WUNC

The panel responsible for studying sea-level rise along North Carolina's coast met Monday in New Bern. It was the first meeting under a new mandate to look at the forecast for sea-level rise for a shorter time period.

Four years ago the Coastal Resources Commission's science panel issued a dire report saying oceans could rise 39 inches by the year 2100. The state then issued a moratorium on using that prediction for policy purposes. The new guidelines for the science panel call for a 30-year prediction.

Logistically, the change is meant to match other policy changes already in place on the coast.

"For instance, there are ocean fronts on a setback where development is based on 30 years on the annual erosion rate," said Greg "Rudi" Rudolph, shore protection manager for Carteret County, and a member of the science panel.

"That 30 years is based on the 30-year mortgage.  So, I think the 30-year issue issue is very consistent with other things that the CRC already does."

Of course, many believe the shorter time frame is meant to avoid the often more painful predictions beyond that marker. Rudolph says the predictions differ widely the further out in time you go.

"We'll end up with 24 inches by 2100, or 36 inches by 2100... Another one 60 inches by 2100," said Rudolph. The panel is hoping to avoid that uncertainty.

The panel plans to meet monthly for much of the next year. An official report is due out in 2016.