Courtesy of the Westerly Sun
By Dale P. Faulkner

WESTERLY — More than 100 people gathered Monday at Lanphear Livery in Watch Hill to listen to two experts discuss the impact of sea level rise and storm surge on the region and steps the state is taking to help prospective builders protect their investments.

The talk was offered by the Watch Hill Conservancy and conducted in the Chaplin B. Barnes Reading Room at the livery, located at One Bay Street Center.

Bryan Oakley, associate professor of environmental geoscience at Eastern Connecticut State University, delivered an address he called “Sea Level Rise 101” and Teresa Crean, a community planner and coastal management extension specialist with the Coastal Resources Center and Rhode Island Sea Grant at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, reviewed online mapping tools that the state Coastal Resources Management Council has made available to determine inundation risk for all areas of  the state’s coastline, including Watch Hill and the rest of Westerly.

In the last 25 years, scientists have determined, the sea level has risen globally an average of one centimeter every three years, Oakley said. During the same time period, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tide gauge in Newport has documented increases of 4.1 milliliters per year, slightly higher than the global average, Oakley noted.

“The trillion-dollar question is how much will relative sea level rise and what will we see on the coastline?” Oakley said.

Relative sea level rise is the phrase scientists use to describe sea level rise at a specific location.


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