|Most of Hog Island has eroded into the Atlantic
Ocean. (Photo map by The Washington Post)
In 1892, the town of Broadwater, on Virginia’s Hog Island, was a bustling community with hunting and fishing clubs, families and plenty of oysters. By the early 1900s, the effects of erosion could be seen along the coastline of the southern Delmarva Peninsula, and now “The remains of Broadwater have been lost to the Atlantic Ocean,” and the town residents moved to is being threatened by rising sea level, report Chris Mooney, Zoeann Murphy and Simon Ducroquet of The Washington Post.
Buddy Bell, born on Hog Island, told the writers, “I was the next-to-last kid born on there. At one time the island was two miles wide, and now you can throw a shell across it.” His family, like many on the island, barged their homes to Oyster, Va., and started over.
Now Oyster is “threatened by a fast-rising ocean, as is much of the U.S. East Coast,” they write. “The menace today is different: human-caused climate change. But for some in Oyster, the question of the past echoes today: stay or go?”
Global warming is expanding the ocean, and it’s impossible to know how high it will rise. Tide gauges have measured sea levels since 1927, and readings in places like nearby Hampton Roads have been grim. The Post reports, “Seas there rose by more than six millimeters annually over the past 30 years, compared with four millimeters per year during the three decades before.”
|Post map shows hotspot is sea-level rise.|
Barrier islands change for many reasons, but Virginia’s are changing at an accelerated rate. “Just 250 miles off Virginia, one of the world’s most dramatic sea-level-rise hot spots has emerged, revealed by satellite measurements that began three decades ago,” the Post reports. “Signaling a shift in the Gulf Stream, a massive current that carries heat northward, it’s the most visible sign of a rapidly changing ocean.” Kris Karnauskas, a sea-level-rise expert at the University of Colorado, told the writers, “That hot spot just happens to be the loudest symptom of something large-scale and grand going on.”
“Oyster now sits near this emerging sea-level-rise hot spot,” the reporters write, “and so does part of the legacy of life on Hog Island.” The Virginia Coast Reserve Program for the Nature Conservancy, which owns much of the land around Oyster, is hoping to help the community develop a global warming relocation plan.