Sandy rearranges East Coast landscape

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Hurricane Sandy caused dramatic changes to portions of the East Coast shoreline from North Carolina through Massachusetts, says the U.S. Geological Survey.

In a Nov. 15 release, the agency says before-and-after landscape photo comparisons show New Jersey and New York in particular had their coasts rearranged by the storm.

As a result, houses and infrastructure may be more vulnerable to future storms "because beaches are narrower and dunes are lower," said USGS oceanographer Nathaniel Plant.

Earth scientists in recent years have drawn attention to the storm-mitigating effects an undeveloped coast can have as well as the increasing vulnerability of costal development in an era of climate change.

In the wake of Sandy, periodic questions about the wisdom of using federal funds to rebuild storm-ravaged houses in storm-vulnerable areas have also resurfaced--although there's no early indication of any particular official desire to grapple with the moral hazard of Federal Emergency Management Agency reconstruction grants.

"We're Americans, damn it," Robert Young, a North Carolina geologist who has studied the way coastal communities respond to storms, told The New York Times. "Retreat is a dirty word."  

Earlier this year, North Carolina approved a law (H.B. 819) preventing state agencies from considering rates of sea change for regulatory purposes until July 1, 2016. The state's Costal Resources Commission has predicted a sea level increase of 39 inches over the next century.

For more:
- go to the USGS release (links to before-and-after photos)
- watch an instructive video on climate change denial (embedded video)

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