Boston, for instance, is already taking inventory of low-lying areas, is inspecting thousands of sewer and storm drains, has instructed departments to take rising water levels into account during planning, and has taken measures to help businesses prepare for higher seas.
Eventually, many cities and towns along the coast may have to adjust their own land use and development regulations, invest in reinforcing existing infrastructure, and set aside money to identify areas that are most at risk, Pillsbury said.
“We envision distributing publications, sort of a tool kit or how-to guide to get a community started. This will be a long-term process, because it is a long-term issue,” he said. “Most communities are concerned with this and know it’s out there and know it is getting more urgent. We’re just trying to find a way to help them get started.”
Ocean levels do not rise at the same rate in every part of the world. A number of variables, including strength of ocean currents, water temperatures, ocean circulation and salt levels, play a part, according to the study.
Unfortunately, it seems the rate the ocean is rising is only expected to keep increasing in this region.
“Based on what our models are saying, there is pretty good agreement that the signal (fastest rates of acceleration) is moving north,” Howd said.
In lay terms, the sea-rise rates are tied to the speed of circulation in the Atlantic Ocean. As more ice melts in Greenland, the water becomes colder, slowing down circulation even more and increasing the rate in which ocean levels rise around the northeast coast, he said.