Guest Post by Peter Herstein

The Salt Ponds Coalition 2012 Annual Meeting was held last Monday, 20 Aug, at the Kettle Pond National Wildlife Refuge visitor center.  The guest speaker was Dr. Jon Boothroyd, the RI State Geologist*.  He provided the presentation “Climate Change, Coastal Geologic Hazards and Sea-Level Rise: Some RI Strategies” to a large audience.   This brief was an update of previous presentations he has given.  The abstract of his brief is provided below.  The majority of the slides he used were taken from an earlier brief and can be found at :

In addition, a video of a previous talk he gave containing much of the information presented can be found at the youtube site:

Dr. Boothroyd commenced his talk with a discussion of the long term rise of sea level in New England, going back over 11,000 years, when the sea level here was almost 400 ft lower than today.  He presented unequivocal evidence of recent warming trends in New England, noting that the average temperatures here are now similar to those historically of Northern New Jersey.  He showed recent rises in both carbon dioxide and average temperature levels.  He presented multiple models and data regarding predictions of sea level rise of 3 to 5 feet by the beginning of the next century.  He noted that the rate of recent sea level rise in New England is increasing.  His most important point, however, is that the greatest problem for RI regarding sea level rise is not the rise by itself, but sea level rise combined with storm surge from tropical (e.g. hurricanes) and extratropical storms (e.g. the Patriots Day storm of 2007).  He did this showing maps of surge and flooding from 50 year and 100 year storms (i.e. Hurricane Carol and the 1938 hurricane) and then extrapolating to 2100 to show potential increased surge and flooding with the added 3 to 5 feet of sea level rise.  The projected maps showed flooding from the shore right up to portions of Rte 1.  He discussed planning studies the CRMC has committed to fund (but not yet provided) and some planning studies regarding potential impacts in Wickford Village. He showed some pictures of a parking lot in Wickford Village that now routinely floods on peak spring high tides due to sea level rise.

If one didn’t want to look forward 90 years, but rather 5, 10 or 25 years for more near term planning perspectives, his data could be used to make similar predictions for these time frames.

Peter Herstein is a candidate for Charlestown Planning Commission in the 2012 election


* Jon Boothroyd is the Rhode Island State Geologist and Research Professor Emeritus of Quaternary Geology, Department of Geosciences, College of the Environment and Life Sciences, University of Rhode Island. Professor Boothroyd holds a B.A. degree in Economics from the University of New Hampshire (1962), a M.S. degree in geology from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (1972), and a Ph.D. degree in geology from the University of South Carolina-Columbia (1974). Professor Boothroyd is on the research faculty of the University of Rhode Island, retiring from active teaching after 35 years in 2010. Professor Boothroyd is primarily a field geologist specializing in coastal, braided river, and various glacial environments. He has 45 years of field experience in New England, South Carolina, Alaska, Iceland, Saudi Arabia, Madagascar, Ecuador, Mexico and the Azores. His current research focuses on:

  • Climate change issues focused on accelerated coastal erosion and sea-level
  • rise
  • Coastal geologic hazards and management issues
  • Long-term (years) beach changes
  • Geologic mapping of Quaternary (surficial) deposits
  • Benthic geologic habitat of Essential Fish Habitat and aquaculture sites
  • Processes and development of barrier and headland shorefaces in glaciated
  • terrain
  • Holocene stratigraphy of microtidal lagoons
  • Geoarchaeology of New England