Temporary Features - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1913426

Temporary Features

The article “A Coast Without A Road Map” [“The Rising Tide,” Residence, February 24] appears to sound the need for a call to action to the newly issued National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report concerning predicted future sea level rise.

Reading the article raised several questions in my mind, most of which concerned possible variables that could render the rate of predicted rise inaccurate.

A review of the NOAA report’s executive summary finds that the report includes numerous disclaimers that could affect its findings, including an admission that the predictability of ice sheet processes is poor, and that the behavior of El Niño, an ocean circulation pattern that affects global climate, is highly variable.

Add to that the assumption by NOAA that sea level rise is greenhouse gas-driven — a theory that is not unanimously embraced by the scientific community, although we are led to believe otherwise.

The article also correctly points out that perceived sea level rise is also driven by land subsidence, and touches on the fact that, in many areas, too many homes have been built on poorly stable coastal land.

The article documents several examples of shoreline communities that have spent a lot of money, time, planning and effort to bolster their shorelines, principally by the method of sand replenishment on beaches. The lack of a unified guidance policy from regional and federal governments seems to be a central theme.

Presented is an instance of a beach replenished with fresh sand, only to have the sand eroded from the point of deposition and transported to down-current beaches. Although presented in an almost secondary light, this is a key to understanding that beach preservation and replenishment projects will continue to be local in scope, with only temporary results.

Geology teaches us that throughout the oceans’ history, beaches are only temporary features, a concept that was understood and embraced by the early environmental movement. Visit your favorite local beach one week after a previous visit and you may notice that the shape of the sand mounds, valleys, ripples and elevations may be a lot different from your previous visit. The oceans possess vast amounts of kinetic energy that is expended where it meets land, i.e., at shorelines. The result is that nature naturally and constantly reconfigures and reshapes beaches.

People can have very understandable attachments to beaches, including emotional ones, myself included. But are we ready to accept that the processes of the natural world can’t be modified in the long term?

Saul Ash

Hampton Bays