Preparing for Global Warming

Even with some contrarian reports that have been brought to light lately, the vast majority of the scientific community believes in the fact of global warming. Regardless of what skeptics might say about it being a “made up disaster” one thing is certain, the ice cap is melting and seas are rising. That poses a grave threat to all coastal cities and towns. Countries such as Singapore, Palau and the Netherlands, all of which are at or below sea level, face the risk of being wiped right off the map.

Experts are not in agreement as to how much of a rise in average sea levels we will see, but figures ranging from one foot to as much as five feet of rise by the end of the century have been predicted. In some cases, even the best case scenario would be too much, let alone having almost two meters of rise to deal with.

Coastal engineers everywhere have been studying this risk and seeking ways of responding to it. The Dutch, long recognized as the world’s foremost experts in holding back the sea are experimenting with new “soft” defenses to deal with these rising tides. One of these has been to build a massive sandbar, as a barrier island to protect miles of beaches from erosion. This structure, called the Sand Engine, is expected to last 20 years, eliminating the need to replace beach sands every five years.

Maeslant Barrier Flood Control System
Maeslant Barrier Flood Control System

The Maeslant Barrier in Rotterdam was built to protect the city from rising seas, specifically a storm surge. It is an automated system, with two floating gates that are each 210 meters long. When the seas are expected to rise in excess of three meters due to storm conditions, the gates automatically close, then flood to settle into a trough constructed along the bottom of the river.

Singapore is another country with large amounts of land reclaimed from the sea; amounting to over 20 percent of their total land area. In a recent decision, regulations for reclaiming land from the sea were changed, raising the minimum reclaimed land height by a meter, to protect the land and any structures built on it from rising seas.

Breakwaters which protect the Singapore oceanfront are also being enlarged and raised to new heights to battle rising sea levels and rising tides. Civil engineers in the island nation are battling hard to stay ahead of any potential threat. As the nation with the second highest population density in the world, Singapore can’t afford to lose even one square meter to the sea. Nevertheless, experts are saying that allowing the sea to reclaim some land back may be necessary, in order to protect the rest of the land.

This problem isn’t just an overseas one, but one that strikes home here in the United States as well. Some of the most valuable property in the country is threatened by rising tides along both coasts. Municipalities are faced with the need to raise sea walls, dikes and breakwaters, in order to protect that property.

Rendering of Sea Level Rise in SF (Nickolay Lamm)
Rendering of Sea Level Rise in SF (Nickolay Lamm)
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