Look at past sea-level rise points to troubling future

about 20 miles offshore along the Texas-Louisiana border, was a barrier island until just a few thousand years ago," Anderson said. "We know that it was drowned in place, because we have drilled core samples there. We still don't know what rate of sea-level rise it took to drown the island, but we're studying that."

Rising seas can also overwhelm tidal wetlands, like those at the head of the Trinity River in upper Galveston Bay or the head of the Nueces River in upper Corpus Christi Bay. Anderson's group also is finding evidence that a catastrophic collapse of one coastal structure -- like a barrier island -- can result in stress or even in collapse of interconnected structures like tidal wetlands.

"Even with past examples to guide us, devising an accurate model for local shoreline change will be difficult because there is a complex interplay between global events -- like what's happening in Antarctica -- and local geologic, oceanic, and atmospheric phenomena," said Anderson. "There are many more variables that go into this than I would ever have believed when I started studying the Gulf Coast in the 1980s."


Contact: Jade Boyd
Rice University

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