Sea Level Rise at our March 4 Meeting

Thank you to the 36 members who attended our March 4 STAY COOL meeting on Sea Level Rise and thank you to speakers Dr. Reinhard (Ron) Flick and Dr. Sarah Giddings (both from Scripps Institution of Oceanography) along with Nicola Hedge from The San Diego Foundation Environment Initiatives.

We learned from Dr. Flick that mean sea level rise (MSLR) is currently increasing about 3 mm/year (this amounts to about a 1/8 inch annual rise). While this doesn’t seem significant, the rate at which we are experiencing MSLR is increasing and future factors, such as polar ice melting and oceans warming will increase MSLR. Other factors such as extreme tides, wave run-up, storm surges and El Niño/La Niña will increase MSLR fluctuations, resulting in coastal flooding. According to researchers, sea level is expected to rise nearly three times faster between now and 2050 than it did in the prior half century. To put this in perspective, by 2050, what once was the “hundred year flood” occurrence may occur every year.

Infographic courtesy of Climate Education Partners

Infographic courtesy of Climate Education Partners







Dr. Giddings shed light on what sea level change will mean for our coastal gems: our lagoons, estuaries, bays, marshes and other natural waterways – we have nearly 20 of these treasures along San Diego County’s coastline. These natural beauties are already threatened by contaminants from “urban drool”, health concerns from mosquito borne diseases, invasive species and impacts on organisms from hypoxia and acidification. Sea level change will amplify these challenges and will result in more impacts from flooding, high sedimentation, and changes in lagoon water temperature, all of which will affect marine ecosystems.

Along San Diego County’s 70 miles of coastline, we know that sea level rise will affect not only our quality of life and our natural ecosystems, but will also have impacts on wastewater/storm water management, transportation systems and coastal businesses & housing. Nicola Hedge, TSDF, presented a summary on sea level rise mitigation and adaptation actions already happening in San Diego and findings from the Focus 2050 report (link). In 2012, TSDF teamed up with ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability to develop a Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategy (link) and have since involved the Port of San Diego, five member cities, the airport and other experts. Many government agencies and cities are developing strategies now that will help us adapt to our rising seas. For example, in the current draft of the San Diego Climate Action Plan outlines adaptation as one of five bold action plans.

Dr. Flick reminded us that now is not the time to panic – we have perhaps 30 or more years  to institute adaptation plans for the worst of coming changes. But we do need to begin planning now for future sea level rise impacts.

Upcoming Events
STAY COOL members have multiple opportunities to get involved in these upcoming events:

Action Items

Haven’t signed our Member Declaration yet? Join our growing list of active members who have signed the commitment and you’ll receive a free t-shirt.

The City of San Diego is conducting its environmental review of the Climate Action Plan (CAP). The process is governed by CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) and this phase is the Notice of Preparation (NOP). The city is seeking input from the public on what kinds of policies they should analyze and which alternatives to include. The current draft CAP is located on the City’s website:

Written comments are due by Friday, March 20 – email and reference “San Diego Climate Action Plan IO No. 21002571.” Email us to receive suggested message points.

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