16 April 2018

Notes From A Slow Motion Disaster

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Assateague National Seashore. Note the dead trees on the horizon in the far distance.

Assateague Nat. Seashore is one of the jewels of Maryland and I never tire of soaking in the beauty of this windswept barrier island at the edge of the continent. This past weekend I grabbed my camera and spent some time with the famous pony’s on the back side of the barrier island away from the beach. While doing so, I noticed something that few visitors would: climate change underway before my eyes.

Now if you look at the sea level records from Assateague, the rising ocean is there in black and white, or should I say salt water blue? The visitors don’t see that though, they soak up the sun at the beach and most don’t even visit the back side of the island where beautiful boardwalks surround saltwater and freshwater wetlands. Not only is this the best place to take photos of the famous ponies it’s where you can see the climate changing.

Look at the picture at the top of this post. See the dead trees on the horizon? Now look at the pictures below that I shot Saturday, April 14, 2018.

Note the dead trees above with healthy trees behind them. The trees are dead because of salt water. It’s steadily rising and you can see it at Assateague and also at Blackwater NWR about 60 miles away on the Chesapeake Bay. The sea level on the coast from Cape Hatteras to Boston is rising 3-4 times faster than the global average and it’s clearly visible. Most people think this is just the way it looks but that’s why slow-motion disasters are so insidious. You do not realize how drastic a change is underway.

NASA has a good summary of how much Assateague has retreated as the water rises and how the coastline has changed from the jetties at the Ocean City inlet. Note in the image how the jetty has blocked the longshore current and accelerated the retreat of Assateague. North of the jetty sand accumulated, although sand must be dumped to the north in Ocean City to keep the beach and hotels dry.

NASA  linked to an EPA report called Coastal Sensitivity to Sea Level Rise in the Mid Atlantic. Guess what happens if you try and get it from the EPA:

They don’t much like uncomfortable facts over there do they…

Don’t sweat it though. Science is based on objective data and testable fact and not a warped worldview. It will win in the end because when you have to hide the science, you’ve already lost the battle. The younger kids ( in 7-12th grade)  have grown up with a worldwide library in their hands. They get this. I also suspect some are confused about why their grandparents are so angry about things.

Oh, and below is the beauty of the front side of Assateague.