Rising tides: Sea level symposium sheds light on potential flooding

Floods turning streets into canals is an increasingly common image on the news but most Bostonians never consider the fact that rising sea levels in the Boston Harbor could spill over into our own streets.  

New sea-level rise maps being presented at a public forum at 8:30 a.m. today at the Moakley Courthouse show where the city would flood if the Harbor’s sea levels continue to rise at its current clip.

“Parts of the city you don’t think — Back Bay and Beacon Hill — would be under water,” said Vivien Li of the Boston Harbor Association, which organized the two-day forum.

Scientists say climate change causes water in increasingly warmer oceans to expand. Melting glaciers and ice sheets exacerbate the problem. Once sea levels reach critical mass, the city would be defenseless against a major storm, researchers say.

“Sea-level rise is already occurring,” said UMass Boston researcher Ellen Douglas, who helped create the maps. “Depending on how much the Earth continues to warm, the sea level will continue to rise at the same rate.”

Instead of putting a time stamp on disaster, Douglas is more concerned with combating climate change now.  

“We’re one of few cities actually thinking about and working on coming up with a solution,” she said. “We’re actually ahead of others but we’re still behind the inevitable.”


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