If you visit a North Carolina beach this summer, chances are you'll witness firsthand the effects of global climate change brought on by greenhouse gas pollution. Nowhere is planetary warming more obvious than the coast. As the average global temperature has climbed about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past century, sea level has risen nearly a foot due to glaciers melting and warm water expanding. And a period of intensifying Atlantic storms that began a decade ago has repeatedly slammed the swelling seas into the coastline, speeding up erosion of the fragile and ever-shifting Outer Banks and putting lives and property at risk.
...if sea level continues to rise at current rates and storm activity remains intense, the state's barrier island chain will break up completely in a few decades, says coastal geologist Stanley Riggs of East Carolina University.... Instead of a long strand of linked sand reefs, the Outer Banks will become small, isolated islands separated by bays. Hatteras Island will be completely under water except for parts of Buxton. Most of Ocracoke Island will be inundated, and there will be new inlets near Nags Head, Duck and Corolla. Pamlico Sound will turn into Pamlico Bay, and large swaths of mainland Dare and Hyde counties will disappear into the sea.
May 17, 2005