Study: 5-meter rise in sea level would flood 23 federal buildings in Washington, D.C.

A mere 0.1-meter rise would cost the city $2.1 billion
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A 5-meter rise in sea level would flood 23 federal buildings in Washington, D.C., according to a study in the November issue of Risk Analysis.

Even though 5 meters exceeds the likely amount of sea-level rise for the next 100 years, the study (.pdf) says that level could be reached during storms. Affected buildings would include the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and the Education Department.

No federal buildings would be in the flooded area if sea levels were to rise 2.5-meters, the next lowest amount the study considered. Current predictions of the city's sea-level rise, a result of climate change, range from 0.2 meters to more than 2 meters in the next 100 years, says the University of Maryland team behind the study.

A sea-level rise of just 0.1 meters in Washington, D.C., would flood 103 properties and cost the city $2.1 billion.

That level would also affect the four Metrorail lines that run under the Potomac River. The only one that doesn't, the Red Line, would be affected at 5 meters but not 2.5 meters.

At Washington's Bolling Air Force Base, which sits along the Potomac River, 23 buildings would be flooded if the sea level increases by just 0.1 meters. At 5 meters, 872 buildings would be inundated, the study says.

While a planned retreat from vulnerable areas is a potential way to adapt to sea-level rise, the abundance of important institutions in Washington makes that an unlikely choice for the city. Flood walls and levees are a more likely response.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency began work on a system of levees to protect the National Mall in 2010.

For more:
- download the study, "Prediction and Impact of Sea Level Rise on Properties and Infrastructure of Washington, DC"

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