Seas are rising along the Virginia shore. In the last century, the Virginia coast saw the ocean rise by about 18 inches. Future sea level rise is uncertain, because many factors come into play, including expansion of the warming ocean waters, warming of the atmosphere, and melting of the Arctic and Antarctic glacial ice sheets.
The Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS) at William and Mary University has generated four possible scenarios for the coming century, including an unlikely "best case" version where the rising waters continue the last century's trend, as well as a "worst case" scenario where melting ice sheets raise the sea level by 8 feet by 2100 (see: "Sea Level Rise Scenarios"). In the mid-range scenario, seas would rise three feet by century's end, bringing routine flooding to many areas that currently flood only during the most extreme events.
But for some low-lying Virginia homeowners, the flood-prone future is already here, according to a report from Bloomberg (see: "Front Yards Turn to Wetlands in Virginia as Climate Change Takes Toll," by Heather Perlberg). A case in point, Bloomberg reports, is Norfolk, Virginia, resident Amanda Armstrong. "For the past year and a half, she's had to navigate rising waters that saturate the lawn of her red brick house in Norfolk, Virginia, and sometimes fill a puddle out front with crabs and fish," reports Bloomberg. Armstrong and her roommate "keep most of their valuable belongings on the second floor and rarely leave or return home before checking predictive tide tables. The two often park several blocks away to avoid getting stuck in the driveway when water from the river spills over the bulkhead and fills their street."
In some coastal markets, increasingly frequent flooding is beginning to affect property values, Bloomberg reports — an effect which will likely widen in coming decades. Said Climate Watch researcher Ben Strauss, "Even with gradual sea-level rise, some elevations can undergo very fast change in vulnerability to flooding. What's happening in coastal Virginia is kind of a preview of what could happen much more widely."
The Virginia shore's soggy situation is getting attention from state legislators, reports the Hampton Roads Daily Press (see: Hampton Roads legislators call for new state fund for flooding assistance," by Travis Fain). Legislators from shore districts are looking to lay the groundwork for a program to assist waterfront property owners with building elevation projects, and want to create a state "resiliency office" to keep tabs on the situation, the paper reports.
Virginia Senator Tim Kaine is also taking a look at his state's shoreline vulnerability, reports the Virginian-Pilot (see: "Kaine takes close look at local sea level rise," by Aaron Applegate). "The senator has taken a keen interest in [sea level rise] issues, becoming perhaps the region's loudest voice in Washington calling for a coordinated attack backed by federal funding," the paper reports. "He was in Norfolk to tour sea level rise hot spots with city and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials… Last month, Kaine sent letters to the heads of 11 federal agencies, asking them to participate in an Old Dominion University pilot project to develop a regional plan to respond to sea level rise and flooding."