Sinking Land. Why Delaware Can Lose 24,000 Homes?
DOVER, DELAWARE – June 19, 2018
According to a report released on Monday by the Union of Concerned Scientists, in less than 30 years, nearly 7,000 Delawareans could see their homes destroyed by climate-change-induced flooding and sea level rise.
The study results for Delaware are quite sobering. In Sussex County, Delaware, the seaside destinations of Bethany, South Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island have a combined 13,000 properties at risk of chronic flooding in 2045—properties that currently represent about 10 percent of their property tax base.
By 2100, that number jumps to roughly 31,000 people who live in 24,000 homes throughout the nation's lowest-lying state, says the report.
The hardest hit areas of the state, according to the worst-case scenario of 6.5 feet of sea level rise by 2100, will include the southeastern corner of Delaware, from Selbyville to Fenwick Island, where more than 13,000 homes collectively worth more than $773 million are at risk of chronic flooding over the next three decades.
Only a small portion of areas in the western and northern parts of the state are expected to be spared, according to an interactive mapping tool included in Monday’s report.
The analysis finds that without additional measures to adapt to rising seas, as many as 311,000 homes and 14,000 commercial properties worth $136 billion are at risk of chronic flooding over the next three decades nationwide.
The Union of Concerned Scientists used property data from the Zillow Transaction and Assessment Dataset and sea level rise scenarios developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to analyze how coastal homes and businesses could be impacted by chronic flooding and rising seas.
NOAA has estimated that, if little or no action is taken to stop greenhouse gas emissions, oceans could rise anywhere from 2 feet to 7.1 feet by 2100.
In Delaware, seas have risen in Lewes by an average of about 3.35 millimeters per year — which is twice the global average — and state officials have previously estimated that 8 percent to 11 percent of the state’s land could be underwater by 2100.
The combination of rising seas and sinking land puts Delaware in a hotspot for sea level rise, where rates are increasing faster and higher than anywhere else on the Atlantic Coast.
"Once market risk perceptions catch up with reality, the potential drop in coastal property values could have reverberations throughout the economy—affecting banks, insurers, investors, and developers—potentially triggering regional housing market crises," the Union of Concerned Scientists said in a press release.