<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; url=https://r.sealevelrise.org/https://sealevelrise.org/states/connecticut/"/> Connecticut's Sea Level Rise - Sea Level Rise

Overview

Connecticut’s Sea Level Has Risen 5” Since 1964

And It’s Already Costing Over $2 Billion

The sea level around Connecticut is 5 inches higher than it was in 1964.1 This increase is mostly due to ice melting into the ocean and Connecticut’s sinking land, and it’s causing major issues. Solutions in Connecticut can be complicated, because evaluation of coastal community needs and preservation of wetland habitats must both be taken into consideration when solving for sea level rise.2 There are already over 7,000 properties at risk from frequent tidal flooding in Connecticut.3 The state is planning over $2 billion in sea level rise solutions, which include restoration projects, catastrophic flood prevention, and building seawalls.

Sea level rise is speeding up

Although the sea has only risen by 5 inches since 1964, its speed of rise is accelerating 1 We know this because the sea level is measured every 6 minutes.4 Scientists use different equipment like satellites, floating buoys off the coast, and tidal gauges to accurately measure the local sea level as it accelerates and changes.

Created with Highcharts 6.2.0

SEA LEVEL MEASUREMENT FROM BRIDGEPORT AREA TIDE GAUGE SINCE 1950

Causes & Complications

Why Are Sea Levels Rising?

While there are four causes of sea level rise in Connecticut, ice melt5 and land sinkage6 are the largest contributors. Because the land is getting lower each year, due to a process called subsidence, Connecticut is particularly vulnerable to an increased rate of sea level rise in the future. Click here to learn more about these causes.

Ice Melt
How Ice Melt Increases Sea Level Rise
How Land Sinkage Increases Sea Level Rise

Most flooding happens in the winter

The highest tides in Connecticut occur during nor’easters, those wintertime storms that push more water to the coast, raising the high tide even higher. Combined with an increased gravitational pull from the moon, these tides are typically over a foot and a half higher than normal high tides.1 Add that to the 5 inches of sea level rise since 1964 and you end up with flooding even on sunny days.

Solutions aren’t simple

In Connecticut the sea level is rising more rapidly than some coastal areas because as the ocean water is rising, the land is sinking. What complicates finding solutions is that many coastal properties and critical infrastructure in the state are only inches above the existing sea level, which continues to rise and pose and even greater threat2. Solving for sea level rise in Connecticut will require not only finding solutions that suit coastal residents and businesses, but that take into account sea level rise induced shifts in vegetation within coastal wetlands and possible green solutions that will preserve the ecosystem and existing habitats.7

Forecast

What's the Future of Sea Level Rise?

Sea level rise in Connecticut is expected to keep increasing as polar ice melt continues to speed up. Around Bridgeport, it took 40 years for the sea level to rise around 6 inches.1 Scientists forecast that in just the next 15 years, the sea level will have risen by another 6 inches.8

Scientists are not certain how fast the ocean will warm and ice will melt. They expect water levels to continue to rise faster, but are not sure just how fast. Therefore scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have made predictions based on ranges from low to high.

Below you can see the range of the NOAA and USACE high and intermediate forecasts for various locations around Connecticut.9 We are currently closest to the USACE high forecast, which is the darkest red line.

SLR speeding up - Connecticut English
SLR speeding up - Connecticut English
Bridgeport
Created with Highcharts 6.2.0Bridgeport Sea Level Rise Forecasts

Flooding

Why Are Floods More Frequent?

When the ocean rises high enough, high tides cause flooding even on sunny days. Even though the sea level has only risen by around 3 inches, tidal flooding has increased by 250% in Connecticut since 2000.10

Flooding
How sea level rise affects Connecticut

Flooding even when there’s no rain

Drainage systems are designed to channel excess rainwater from the streets and drain it into the sea. But with the pressure from rising sea levels and higher tides, seawater can get pushed into these pipes and spill out into the streets. This causes flooding even on days without rain.

Drain A
Drainage Under Normal Tidal Conditions
Drainage With High Tide / Sea Level Rise

Increased storm surge flooding

Unfortunately, slightly higher sea levels make hurricanes even more damaging. Just a few more inches of sea level rise allow a hurricane to push more water onto the land, even if the hurricane itself doesn’t make landfall.

Hurricane Sandy, 2012

Higher sea levels create a higher launching point for storm surge. These small changes in sea level rise are enough to turn what were 100-year storm surges into much more frequent events. In fact, in a third of 55 coastal sites studied throughout the US, 100-year storm surges will be 10-year or more frequent events by 2050.11

This means that in many coastal cities, if you bought a house with a 30-year mortgage today, by the time you paid off your mortgage you could be experiencing extreme 100-year storm surges ten times more frequently due to sea level rise alone. This does not include the added risk of more intense storms resulting from warmer water and a warmer atmosphere, which could further increase storm surge damage.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit Connecticut, causing widespread damages to the state due to high wind and coastal storm surge. Without sea level rise, Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge would have been lower.12

Hurricane Sandy, 2012

Costs

What's at Risk in Connecticut?

There’s a lot at risk from sea level rise and flooding in Connecticut, including billions of dollars of investments and business, which are situated only inches above sea level. Also at great risk are natural infrastructure, such as coastal wetlands, beaches and dunes, and river floodplains, which provide important defenses against storms for people and property.2

HOMES & CARS
HOMES & CARS

Storm surges or flooding can damage the underside of your car or the first level of your home.

BUSINESSES
BUSINESSES

Flooding can shut down businesses for days and impact sales. It can also fill first-level floors of shops and damage the interior and merchandise.

COASTAL WETLANDS
COASTAL WETLANDS

Sea level rise can disrupt coastal wetlands, which puts important ecosystems in danger, threatens habitats, and leaves communities exposed to dangerous storm surge.

In Milford there are 982 residential properties already at risk from repeated tidal flooding, by 2033 that number will increase to 1,128 as sea levels rise. In Norwalk, 349 properties at risk will turn into 583 within 15 years. In Westport there are 410 properties at risk, which will become 510. And in East Haven, there are 355 properties at risk, which will increase to 435 by 2033. Click here to explore other coastal communities in Connecticut that are at risk at FloodiQ.com.

Connecticut is spending over $2 billion on solutions

Some cities have sufficient resources to deal with this problem while others do not. Connecticut will need solutions at the individual, local, state, and federal levels to protect its coastal communities.

Metropolitan District
Metropolitan District

Connecticut’s Metropolitan District has a $2 billion storm protection project underway, which includes a $250 million tunnel to channel wastewater during storms.13

The Town of Branford
The Town of Branford

The Town of Branford has a plan for over $10 million that will address coastal resilience planning in Branford, Madison, and Milford, Connecticut.14

Connecticut
Connecticut

Connecticut will spend $54.2 million on infrastructure projects in the city of Bridgeport and planning and research across both Fairfield and New Haven Counties.15

What can you do?

Individuals, mayors, legislators, governors, and Congress can work together to build protections before flooding, to build back stronger after flooding, and to create plans that future-proof our communities. Click here to see what solutions can help protect your home or what your community can do.