delware environmental institute

Delaware Geological Survey, DNREC update sea level rise projections for Delaware

Societal concerns about climate change, severe weather and rising seas are raising questions about readiness across the globe. Extreme weather events this year such as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria underscore the need to be prepared. Planning for sea level rise is especially important for the U.S. Mid-Atlantic coastal region, including Delaware, due to its high concentration of population and development, critical natural ecosystems, and public infrastructure located near the coast. This region is known as a sea level rise hotspot, where rates of sea level rise are roughly twice the global average because of processes such as weakening of the Gulf Stream and land subsidence.

The Delaware Geological Survey (DGS), based at the University of Delaware, and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Delaware Coastal Programs have released a new report updating sea level rise planning scenarios for the state of Delaware. The update was part of Governor Jack Markell’s Executive Order 41, which calls for the periodic update to distribute new guidance to state agencies.

The 2017 report, which replaces a previous report from 2009, recommends planning scenarios that incorporate sea level rise increases of 0.52 meters (1.71 feet), 0.99 meters (3.25 feet) and 1.53 meters (5.02 feet) by the year 2100. The projections are based on recent national and international assessments and academic research and represent different levels of potential sea level rise for state agencies to consider when planning long-term activities.