Footprints in the Sand - Eco Trail
Please leave only your footprints

Sea Level Rise and Erosion –
The Dangers to Pensacola Beach

Along the Florida coast, the sea level already rises about 7-9 inches per century. Scientists believe that global warming is causing it to rise even faster. It’s estimated that the sea level on the Florida coast will rise 18-20 inches by 2100. As the sea level rises, low-lying areas could become overrun with water. This would result in loss of land and structures, loss of wildlife habitat, accelerated coastal erosion, increases in flooding and vulnerability to storm damage, and increased salinity of rivers, bays, and aquifers, which would threaten supplies of fresh water.

Erosion

Erosion is a natural process. Sand is a shifty, unstable substance, and over time wind, waves, and currents create a great deal of sand movement. The added erosive effects of boats, beach development, and other human activity could cause beaches to disappear. If left unchecked, erosion could erase up to 200 feet of the Florida coastline over the next 100 years.

Ice Sheets, Glaciers, and Sea Level Rise

The melting of ice sheets and glaciers is believed to be one of the major causes of global sea level rise. The Greenland ice sheet lost between 50 and 100 billion tons of ice annually between 1993-2003, and recent evidence suggests that rate is now even higher. In 2005, the British Antarctic Survey released findings that 87% of the glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula have retreated over the past 50 years. Between 2000-2005, Antarctic Peninsula glaciers shrank by an average of 164 feet per year.

Navigational Inlets and Erosion

The dredging of inlets is a major source of beach erosion. Most natural inlets (passages between barrier islands) are too shallow for safe navigation, so they are periodically dredged to allow travel. These deeper channels develop swifter currents, which suck in sand and blow it out into the sea. The construction of jetties—rock structures parallel to the shoreline—helps to prevent this. Unfortunately, jetties create another problem. They trap sand on its current island, slowing erosion, but they prevent the natural process of sand flowing to the next downdrift island, causing that island to erode.

Beach Nourishment

Beach nourishment has become a popular method of fighting erosion. Beach nourishment rebuilds beaches by pumping sand on to the shoreline from offshore or trucking it in from inland sites. While helpful, it does not solve the problem entirely, as the new sand will eventually erode.