Researchers, scientists create own platforms to discuss sea level rising

By Taylor Berry

The sea level rising (SLR) problem may seem like old news. But for some researchers and scientists, it’s an ongoing issue that needs attention and a solution. And while COVID has been the front page news, some of these researchers and scientists have used their platforms during the pandemic to shed light on SLR.

Coastal Planning Specialist for Florida Sea Grant College Program Thomas Ruppert, who has made appearances on “Disasters: Deconstructed” a podcast and You Tube channel that discuss environmental and cultural environmental issues, talked about how important SLR is and how costly the damage can be.

“SLR presents a literally existential threat to many of Florida’s coastal communities,” Ruppert said. “It is already costing us a lot of money through impacts to infrastructure…Flooding is already consistently our most costly disaster each year that we face in this country, and SLR, combined with stronger storms and higher storm surges, will continue to exacerbate this trend.”

One thing to note is that sea level is at 0 feet. If the sea level dropped drastically, it would impact the habitat and how people live, possibly resulting in famine. If the sea level rose drastically, a lot of damage would happen to ocean wildlife as they wash up on shore, the agricultural soil because of the salt content in the ocean, the plants and the infrastructure. Once oceans reach their peaks, that one storm could flood towns and cause destruction.

Florida’s SLR issues pose a threat to the infrastructure, wildlife, plants and agricultural soil. As time progresses, the higher the ocean level gets.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), at the beginning of the 1950s in Key West, Fla., the mean sea level (MSL) was at -0.36 feet, but while years progressed, so did the rising sea levels. While the levels continuously moved up and down, below and above sea level, it was not until Feb. 1, 2012, when the ocean level was at 0.08 feet and slowly moved further away from sea level. The tallest point occurred on Oct. 1, 2019, at 1.2 feet.

Florida officials have taken actions to address SLR by adding more sewage systems and raising roads, but those solutions are not long-term because, according to Ruppert, “there are no long-term solutions to SLR.”

While a lot of researchers and scientists are sticking with their hard data to bring awareness to SLR, there is one researcher who took a more artistic approach to discussing SLR. Currently residing in Nottingham, England, Alyson Stoneman, a poet and Midlands4Cities AHRC-funded postgraduate researcher at Nottingham Trent University, uses her creative writing skills and research on the environment and climate change to creatively communicate the data she obtains from her research to people through her writings.

“One of the things I’m looking at in my research is actually the relationship between data and poetry and how instead of particularly writing around the environment and climate change, I’m using data and scientific data to kind of depend on writing, but also to interact with it,” Stoneman said. “How do we actually communicate data and make it relevant and communicate that information? Because that data kind of tells a story.”

Recently, Stoneman was featured on a “Disasters: Deconstructed” podcast and read a poem she wrote about SLR, which is a problem the United Kingdom is also facing. “Disasters: Deconstructed” hosts live web discussions every week on their You Tube channel.

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