The Hampton Roads coastline is sinking. Here's why you should care.

Evie M.
The Eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Hampton Roads, VirginiaPhoto byKen Lund on

I've been making it a point to try and read more of the news, because, as depressing as it all is, it's important to stay informed, and news stories like this one that just dropped a few hours ago across major news publications in Virginia: The coastline of the Chesapeake Bay in Hampton Roads is sinking.

According to breaking research from scientists at Virginia Tech, "sections of the Chesapeake Bay are sinking at rates of nearly a quarter an inch – or 7 millimeters – a year."

I am no scientist and barely passed Geology, so I'm not sure if that's alarming, but if they're reporting on it, I imagine that it is indeed something we should pay attention to. The question some might be asking, though, is: Why should we care?

The truth is, while I'm not trying to get all "Doomsday" on you, there is reason for all of us to sit up and listen, because it could affect our daily lives.

The sinking of a coastline, also known as coastal subsidence, can have various negative impacts on the environment, communities, and infrastructure in the affected area. Here are some of the reasons why it is generally considered bad if a coastline sinks:

  1. Increased vulnerability to flooding: When a coastline sinks, the relative sea level rises, making the area more vulnerable to flooding from storms and high tides. This can lead to property damage, loss of infrastructure, and displacement of people.
  2. Loss of wetlands and habitats: Coastal subsidence can lead to the loss of wetlands, which are important habitats for fish, birds, and other wildlife. This can have a cascading effect on the entire ecosystem and lead to a decline in biodiversity.
  3. Saltwater intrusion: As the coastline sinks, the groundwater table rises, leading to saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers. This can affect the quality of drinking water and agricultural productivity.
  4. Damage to infrastructure: Coastal subsidence can cause damage to buildings, roads, and other infrastructure that was built at a higher elevation. This can result in costly repairs and the need for more frequent maintenance.
  5. Increased erosion: When the coastline sinks, the land becomes more prone to erosion, which can lead to the loss of beaches, cliffs, and other landforms. This can have negative impacts on tourism, recreation, and property values.

If that's not bad enough, there's even more that could affect our everyday lives, from food to shelter, though the impacts of a sinking coastline can vary depending on the severity and extent of the subsidence, as well as the location and demographics of the affected communities.

  1. Increased risk of flooding: As mentioned earlier, a sinking coastline can increase the risk of flooding from storms and high tides, which can lead to property damage, displacement, and even loss of life. This can disrupt our daily routines and have long-term impacts on the affected communities.
  2. Impacts on infrastructure: The sinking of a coastline can damage infrastructure such as roads, bridges, buildings, and water systems. This can lead to transportation disruptions, water shortages, and higher maintenance costs for households and businesses.
  3. Impacts on natural resources: Coastal subsidence can lead to the loss of wetlands and habitats for fish, birds, and other wildlife. This can affect the availability of seafood and recreational opportunities, which can impact our daily lives and quality of life.
  4. Impacts on the economy: Coastal areas are often important hubs for tourism, recreation, and commerce. The sinking of a coastline can impact these sectors, leading to job losses, reduced incomes, and changes in the availability and cost of goods and services.

So what can we do? As a community, there might not seem like much we can do, but there is. Some ways we can help sinking coastlines include supporting the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to slow down sea level rise, implementing coastal management strategies such as beach nourishment and wetland restoration, and adapting infrastructure to be more resilient to coastal flooding and erosion.

What are your thoughts about the sinking Hampton Roads coastline? Let me know in the comments!

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"Reader beware, you're in for a scare!--R.L. Stine"

Virginia Beach

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