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Connecticut News

Connecticut Coastal Research Shows Extreme Weather A Bigger Climate Change Threat Than Sea Rise

Professor Oakley and Eastern EES alumni Jennifer Croteau and Madie Varney measuring changes at Napatree Point.
Brian Scott-Smith
/
WSHU Public Radio
Professor Oakley and Eastern EES alumni Jennifer Croteau and Madie Varney measuring changes at Napatree Point.

New research from Eastern Connecticut State University shows that extreme storms will cause more coastal erosion than sea-level rise.

Associate Professor Bryan Oakley authored the research, which looked at Napatree Point, an isolated barrier in southern Rhode Island. He wanted to examine how much Napatree has changed since the New England Hurricane of 1938.

“Because it’s been allowed to recover naturally, it’s actually been resilient in its own way without us having to do a whole lot about it. I’m always leery of these engineering projects because, as we’ve seen, time and time again they fail. And while they can work in certain storms and protect in certain instances ultimately the natural system does a lot better than our human systems,” Oakley said.

Oakley said Napatree Point is important as it shows that recovery of the shoreline takes longer due to the frequency of storms, which we are seeing more often due to climate change.

He said the research is helpful for shoreline communities in understanding shoreline erosion and helping them to plan ahead for future development and coastal management.

“The takeaway for us was that storms are incredibly important in terms of moving the sediment and altering the shoreline. It’s not discounting sea level rise but in terms of the coastal processes during storms it just dwarfs the sea level rise we’ve seen over that same time period,” he said.