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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Climate change impacting Rhode Island coasts

More precipitation, warmer air & water, increased floods just some effects already occurring

NARRAGANSETT—This March was the warmest on record in Rhode Island (and for the U.S.), according to NOAA. Warmer winters are just one consequence of climate change facing Rhode Island, according to a new document by the University of Rhode Island Climate Change Collaborative.

 Climate Change & Rhode Island’s Coasts summarizes the science of climate change and its impacts on the state’s shoreline. It documents long-term trends in increased precipitation, erosion, and sea level rise, along with warmer air and water temperatures, that accompany climate change. Ocean waters are also becoming more acidic, threatening shellfish, which are vulnerable to ocean acidification.

“This document compiles the latest scientific findings from a variety of fields—physical, biological, and chemical oceanography, geology, ecology, and so on—to describe what is happening to Rhode Island marine resources, shorelines, and coastal communities right now, and what can be expected in the future,” says Virginia Lee, senior coastal manager for the URI Coastal Resources Center, and co-leader of the URI Climate Change Collaborative.

While many of the changes may be detrimental to coastal property owners and businesses, Lee stresses that the authors focused on presenting a balanced view of climate change, including the possibility that longer summers may be a boon to tourism, and reduced icing may lengthen the shipping season.

Nevertheless, the authors’ primary goal, she says, is to help communities and individuals understand what is happening so they can prepare for the impacts they are likely to face, such as increased flooding.

The document is available online at, along with more information on the Climate Change Collaborative.

The URI Climate Change Collaborative was funded by a grant from the Rhode Island Sea Grant College Program based at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography. For more information about Sea Grant, see