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Rising Sea Level
Rising sea levels have been disturbing geographers and geologists for

some time now. Scientists are constantly trying to prevent the effects

rising waters are causing, which mainly includes beach and island erosion.

So far, their attempts with man-made development on beaches along the eastern

coast of America have only made things worse.

"Up and down the U.S. coast, public money is subsidizing private property

on islands made of sand, the stuff on which, as the Bible says, only fools

build" (Ackerman 7). In recent years there has been a trend towards living

on the barrier islands of America's Atlantic Coast. High rise condominiums,

numerous shops, and several businesses have been built to sustain large

populations on these islands and continue to be built. As a result, this

vital chain of islands that lies between the ocean and the mainland are

at risk.

While interfering with the natural configuration of these islands, human

construction has advanced the rate of beach erosion, thus leaving the mainland

with no barriers during times of high surf. This effect has also led to

costly, unnatural ways to preserve the barrier islands. Saving these islands

in their natural state by curbing human encroachment will both protect

mainland populations from high surf and save a considerable amount of federal

money. The barrier islands are a chain of islands, stretching from New

York to southern Texas, that have served as a critical barrier from the

Atlantic Ocean for well over the past 4,500 years (Ackerman 23).

These islands however are not as stable as those who live on them would

like it to be. Beaches, and in fact whole islands, are constantly eroded

as they are subjected to varying winds, currents and changing sea levels.

Along Florida's East Coast, roughly 368 miles, the average shoreline change

is retreating 22cm per year. Under natural conditions, native vegetation

and shifting sands constantly replace or withhold sand on the islands (16).

Unfortunately for the inhabitants of the barrier islands, this is a geological

behavior which can only continue if the islands remain in a natural state.

In recent years humans on these shorelines and islands have been responding

to the naturally changing conditions, through the use of man made structures

such as seawalls, groins, and sand replenishment, in an effort to save

beachfront property from erosion.

Obstructing the natural shifts of the islands, says Orrin Pilkey of

Duke University who has studied these islands for thirty years, will cause

them to, "be lost forever" (16-17). Attempting to hold beaches in place

with the use of seawalls, groins, and sand replenishment may seem like

a good solution in theory, but in practice they probe ineffective. One

of the most common methods of attempting to hold barrier island beaches

in place is through the use of sea walls, which are costly and ineffective.

Seawalls are typically cement walls constructed parallel to the seashore

in an effort to block waves from coming over the beach and into property.

However, seawalls tend to withhold sand behind the wall during times of

high surf and the natural tendency of the beach to respond to waves is

disturbed (Kaufman 207).

The structures commonly fail from undermining or erosion by waves breaking

over their tops. Under normal conditions sand would be spread out by outgoing

currents, which in turn would lower the slope of the beach and cause the

waves to break gradually. With seawalls in place, sand remains stationary

while waves erode the beach as wave energy is deflected against sand not

protected by the seawall (208). In addition to advancing the erosion rate

of the sand and inhibiting the beaches' natural tendencies, seawalls have

become quite costly to maintain. For example, in New York $120 million

was paid by the federal government to sustain and replenish seawall installations

as of 1996, and repairs continue to be made (Dixon 231). Clearly, this

method is both costly and ineffective. Another commonly used method of

stopping erosion is the placement of groins, which are also ineffective.

Groins are pilings of rocks that extend into the ocean and perpendicular

to the shore. Like seawalls, the primary purpose of a groin is to...
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Rising Sea Level. EssayMania.com. Retrieved on 12 Oct, 2010 from