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Seaports need a plan for weathering climate change, Stanford researchers say
Date:5/16/2011

struction materials and equipment. The model, called Sebastian, uses a Google Earth platform to simulate the costs and time required for building dikes around 200 of the world's most active seaports. Sebastian knows the shape of the ocean floor at each location and tailors the structure to each site to produce an estimate of the materials, labor and equipment that would be needed to fortify the port against sea level rise.

"Sebastian allows us to run different scenarios based on different levels of sea rise, and see how the ports are affected," said Fischer. Using criteria in the Army Corps of Engineers manual, the model calculates the resources needed for each variation of the structure. It's a way to calculate big-picture, worldwide demand, Fischer said, but it also gives managers more reliable information about how much survivability they are buying when they invest in different types of protective structures.

Lack of oversight

Another difficult challenge in preparing for climate change at seaports is that no single agency or individual has sole authority over any given port, according to Becker. Some ports are privately owned, some are public and some are a mixture of both. And a broad range of entities from transportation companies to insurance companies to the Environmental Protection Agency have some stake in how they are managed. The arrangement greatly complicates ports' efforts to budget and plan for the future, according to the study.

But plan they must, said Fischer.

"By the end of the century, quite a few ports will be in trouble, even if you are using the most conservative estimates for sea level rise," he said. "And if you use the estimates at the top of the range, all of them will be in trouble."


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Contact: Mark Shwartz
mshwartz@stanford.edu
650-723-9296
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert

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