Climate Change Tracking: Detailed Maps Predict Future of Jersey Shore’s Rising Tide

GALLOWAY TWP., New Jersey (WPVI) – Dr. Stewart Farrell works in his outdoor office nestled at the University of Stockton’s waterfront outpost.

Since 1985, he has been working there as a kind of pioneer of a disturbing science.

“Sea levels will continue to rise no matter what we do,” he said.

Dr. Farrell has painstakingly studied the Jersey Shore from Sandy Hook in the north to Cape May Point in the south, drawing detailed maps that chart the ongoing battle between ocean and land.

A progression of these cards proves that the land is not the winner.

“It’s been very exciting in terms of changes to the coastal waterfront,” he said.

At the heart of its work: arming local elected officials with a snapshot of the future to anticipate the rising tide.

Using a range of advanced technologies, Dr. Farrell and his team can now show street by street, block by block, what the Jersey Shore will look like if human behavior does not change.

“Our use of fossil fuels and the expulsion of carbon dioxide, and other things like methane in the atmosphere, we face a very big crisis when our grandchildren – now two years old – are over 70 years,” he explained.

Climatologists and coastal scientists agree that by 2100 the water will likely be between four and six feet higher than it is today.

“If your land is less than five feet above sea level today, you’re in for a problem,” Farrell said.

Some of the towns affected are Cape May City, Wildwoods, Avalon, Stone Harbor and Atlantic City.

For example, the Venice Park section of Atlantic City, which is a few miles from the ocean on the bay, should be under several feet of water, twice a day, every day. As with so many places, the question here is how to fight against this fate?

“Yes, we can. It just takes money and dedication to do it,” Dr. Farrell said.

And, he says, it also takes a real understanding of the options.

One option: to dam the ground, which means building a dike around it and pumping out the water that infiltrates as the Dutch did in the Netherlands.

“The other proposition is elevation. Elevate while providing fill,” he said.

Both of these options are expensive, but perhaps not the most sentimentally expensive.

The third possibility? Residents may have to leave, Farrell says.

Her hope is to limit the number of departures by sharing photos of their plight and urging residents to prepare.

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