Georgia Sea Grant
Scientists expect coastal Georgia to experience at least six inches of sea level rise within the next 50 years.

Sea Level Rise In Georgia

Sea levels at Savannah's Fort Pulaski have risen over nine inches since 1935

Scientists expect coastal Georgia to experience at least six inches of sea level rise within the next 50 years as a result of the changing climate. Much of Georgia's shoreline lies just a few feet above sea level, putting barrier islands and coastal communities at risk for more frequent flooding, intensified storm surges and saltwater intrusion into low-lying areas. Georgia Sea Grant is responding to this long-term hazard by working with coastal governments to assess their communities' vulnerabilities, assist long-term planning efforts and offer training based on the latest science.

Sea levels have been rising since the last Ice Age 18,000 years ago. Actual measurements of sea level rise in and near Georgia have been made since 1935 by a NOAA tide guage at Fort Pulaski and since 1897 by a tide guage at Fernandina Beach, Florida. Sea levels are rising across the entire Atlanic coast.

Since 1935, the tide gauge at Fort Pulaski, near Savannah and Tybee Island, has measured an average rise in sea level of more than nine inches.

(Source: NOAA)

Since 1897, the tide gauge at Fernandina Beach, near St. Marys, has measured an an average rise in sea level of over nine inches.

(Source: NOAA

What to Expect In Georgia

While much remains to be discovered, scientists and organizations have projected potentials impacts from sea level rise to natural resources, infrastructure and citizens along the Georgia coast. The Southeast Region Technical Report to the National Climate Assessment, published in 2012, summarizes the scientific literature with respect to climate impacts on the Southeast, United States. Georgia Sea Grant director, Charles Hopkinson, contributed to the chapter, "The Effects of Climate Change on Natural Ecosystems of the Southeast."

According to a 2012 report, Tracking the Effects of Sea Level Rise in Georgia's Coastal Communities, written by Larry Keating, professor emeritus, and doctoral candidate Dana Habeeb from Georgia Institute of Technology's School of City and Regional Planning, projections indicate that almost 420 square miles of the Georgia coast will be flooded due to sea level rise by 2110.

Another source of local projections for sea level rise in Georgia can be found in the fact sheet, Facts and findings: Sea level rise and storm surge threats for Georgia, from Climate Central's 2012 Surging Seas report.

Building Partnerships to Address Sea Level Rise in Georgia

Georgia Sea Grant is collaborating with many academic and outreach units to serve coastal Georgia on the issue of sea level rise, including UGA's Carl Vinson Institute of Government, UGA Marine Extension Service, UGA Marine Science Department, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, UGA Geography Department, Georgia Initiative for Climate and Society, Georgia Southern University, Georgia Institute of Technology, UGA Cooperative Extension and others.

In addition, we are partnering with Sea Grant programs throughout the region to share tools and research on sea level rise, such as North Carolina Sea Grant, South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium and Florida Sea Grant.

Georgia Sea Grant and our partners are currently working with communities throughout the coastal zone to help them build resiliency to sea level rise, including the cities of Savannah, Tybee Island, St. Marys, Jekyll Island and Brunswick, as well as offering training through the Coastal Regional Commission, a multi-county planning and development agency that serves 10 counties and 35 cities. We also are working with state and federal organizations, such as the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' (GA DNR) Coastal Resources Division, GA DNR's Environmental Protection Division, Georgia Emergency Management Association, Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Georgia Coastal Research Council, Sapelo Island National Estaurine Research Reserve, Georgia Ports Authority and many others.

Communities of Practice

Georgia Sea Grant is one of the founding members of the Southeast and Caribbean Community of Practice and the Georgia Hazards Community of Practice, both aimed at sharing information, tools and methodology between scientists, extension specialists, natural resource managers, state and federal agencies and others working with stakeholders on the coast.