Sea level rise could be even worse for San Francisco than previously thought

Coastal cities in California and Florida are especially vulnerable to climate change

Jeremy B. White
San Francisco
Thursday 08 March 2018 01:31
Comments
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and San Francisco are seen from Oakland, California
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and San Francisco are seen from Oakland, California

A large swathe of the San Francisco Bay Area will become especially susceptible to flooding as climate change pushes sea levels higher, while subsidence causes land levels to drop, according to a new study.

Previous research has already established that densely inhabited coastal areas are at risk as sea levels rise, a phenomenon that shows signs of accelerating.

But a study conducted by scientists from Arizona State University and the University of California, Berkeley found the effects of rising waters will be magnified in parts of the Bay Area where the land is also sinking.

Subsidence is in part a function of geology, with areas built on landfill more prone to sinking. But it can be exacerbated by pumping groundwater - an issue California contended with in recent years when a withering drought drove a spike in the number of new wells being drilled.

When taking into account sinking land, the authors found, a much larger area is at risk of ending up underwater. The area at risk jumps from between 51 and 413sq km to between 125 and 429sq km. Among the locations at elevated risk are San Francisco’s international airport, Foster City and Treasure Island.

Areas that face being inundated could deal with “unprecedented socioeconomic impacts”, the authors warned. They pointed to the powerful hurricanes that battered areas from Houston to Puerto Rico last year, bringing “unprecedented flooding”.

“Storm intensity, associated rainfall, and storm surges affecting the coastal area were likely amplified by the elevated ocean temperature caused by ongoing global climate change”, they wrote.

Footage shows dramatic rescues in Houston after Hurricane Harvey flooding

Exposure will likely only increase in coming years, the authors warned, noting that number of people worldwide living in areas at risk of is expected to triple in the coming decades and cautioning that many “coastal megacities” are “located in river deltas and lowlands subject to subsidence”.

“Flooding from sea level rise is clearly an issue in many coastal urban areas”, author Roland Bürgmann told UC Berkeley. “This kind of analysis is probably going to be relevant around the world, and could be expanded to a much, much larger scale.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in