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A Brief Analysis

Sea Level Rise and Its Potential Effects on Washington, DC

J. Otavio Thompson tavio@ymail.com

Sea Level Rise and Its Potential Effects on Washington, DC

Topography
Washington, DC covers a total area of 68.3 square miles, including 61.05 square miles of land area.1 Elevation ranges from one foot above sea level at the Potomac River to about 410 feet above sea level at Reno Reservoir in the Tenleytown neighborhood.2 The mean elevation of the city is 150 feet above sea level.3 About 87.5 percent of the city is 20 feet or more above sea level.

Areas at Risk of Increasing Sea Level


An overwhelming majority of the citys human population lives in areas well above sea level. The land areas encompassing East Potomac Park, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, and Washington Harbour in Georgetown are susceptible, although unlikely, to water inundation if there is a 1.5-meter rise in sea level by 2120.4

U.S. Census Bureau. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/11000.html U.S. Geological Survey. http://egsc.usgs.gov/isb/pubs/booklets/elvadist/elvadist.html 3 Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0001792.html 4 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Maps of Lands Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise. http://epa.gov/climatechange/effects/coastal/slrmaps_vulnerable.html#table1
2

Sea Level Rise and Its Potential Effects on Washington, DC

Approximately 5.2% of DC land area could be affected, albeit highly unlikely, if sea levels were to rise 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) by the year 2120.5 If sea levels were to rise 6 meters (about 20 feet) over the next millennium, about 12.5% of DC land area, albeit unlikely, could be inundated with water.6

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Maps of Lands Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise. http://epa.gov/climatechange/effects/coastal/slrmaps_vulnerable.html#table1 6 http://www.climatecentral.org/gallery/graphics/20-big-us-cities-that-should-worry-about-sea-level-rise

Sea Level Rise and Its Potential Effects on Washington, DC

The inspiring news is that adequate long-term shore protection for most of the shoreline is almost certain if the planning and implementation needed to limit erosion and water inundation starts early enough. Much of DCs shoreline, to a degree, is already armored against erosion and water inundation with dykes, levees, seawalls, and bioengineered banks. While governmental agencies and residents should be aware of sea level rise and how to best protect the citys land area against it, we can indeed survive this threat (see below)!

DC Sea Level Rise Planning Map. Source: http://plan.risingsea.net/DC.html

Sea Level Rise and Its Potential Effects on Washington, DC

Please see the below table for a list of selected neighborhoods that details their elevation as well as the measurement location. Neighborhood Adams Morgan Anacostia Bloomingdale Buzzard Point Capitol Hill Chinatown Columbia Heights DuPont Circle Georgetown Golden Triangle (CBD) Hillcrest Mount Pleasant Petworth Southwest Waterfront Trinidad West End White House Woodley Park Elevation7 167 feet 43 feet 98 feet 26 feet 89 feet 52 feet 187 feet 79 feet 62 feet 62 feet 285 feet 180 feet 230 feet 13 feet 102 feet 56 feet 23 feet 226 feet Measurement Location7 18th St and Columbia Rd, NW Good Hope Rd and Minnesota Ave, SE First and U St, NW Half and O St, SW 4th St and East Capitol St, SE 8th and I St, NW 13th and Girard St, NW DuPont Circle Wisconsin Ave and M St, NW 19th and K St, NW Branch and Alabama Ave, SE 18th St and Kilbourne Pl, NW 9th and Buchanan St, NW 4th and G St, SW Queen St and Trinidad Ave, NE 22nd and N St, NW South Lawn E St and Ellipse Rd, NW Cathedral and Connecticut Ave, NW

For a thorough analysis on the likelihood of DC shore protection from sea level rise, read this document: http://risingsea.net/ERL/shore-protection-retreat-sea-level-rise-Washington-DC.pdf

DC HomeTownLocator. http://dc.hometownlocator.com/dc/district-of-columbia/