Rising Coastal Waters Threaten Facilities

Sea-level rise along the coast of the Southeastern United States has accelerated rapidly since 2010.   April 26, 2023

By Dan Hounsell, Senior Editor

The topic of resilience has been slowly rising on the priority lists for institutional and commercial facilities in recent years as natural disasters including wildfires and tornadoes have become more frequent and destructive. Maintenance and engineering managers in facilities along the nation’s coasts have had to deal with the additional challenges created by more frequent hurricanes and rising coastal waters. Now, evidence is emerging that the threat from these rising waters is greater than previously thought. 

A recent study finds sea-level rise along the coast of the Southeastern United States has accelerated rapidly since 2010, raising fears that tens of millions of Americans’ homes in cities across the South will be at risk from flooding in the decades to come, according to Yahoo News

“It’s a window into the future,” Sonke Dangendorf, an assistant professor of river-coastal science and engineering at Tulane University, who co-authored the study that appeared in Nature Communications. 

That paper and another published last month in the Journal of Climate find that sea levels along the Gulf Coast and the southern Atlantic Coast have risen an average of 1 centimeter per year since 2010. That translates to nearly 5 inches over the last 12 years, and it is about double the rate of average global sea-level rise during the same time period. 

The Journal of Climate study found that the hurricanes that have recently hammered the Gulf Coast, including Michael in 2018 and Ian — which was blamed in the deaths of 109 Floridians last year — had a more severe impact because of higher sea levels. 

Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show the water level at Lake Pontchartrain, an estuary bordering New Orleans, is 8 inches higher than it was in 2006. Other cities threatened by rising oceans in the region include Houston, Miami and Mobile, Ala. 

Dan Hounsell is senior editor of the facilities market. He has more than 30 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management. 


Read next on FacilitiesNet