By John Schwartz
4 April 2016
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida (The New York Times) – The concrete block perches absurdly atop a piling, elevated about 10 feet above the beach sand. Is it art? A bulky milepost?
Carlton Hall pointed to the puzzling object and explained that it was once a tie-down block for securing structures like antenna towers. Dr. Hall, the chief scientist for the space center’s ecological program, said that when he started working here a few decades ago, the block had been buried. Now the sand that enveloped it is gone, swept away by the forces of coastal erosion and storms.
He gestured toward the waves rolling in nearby and said, “The beach used to be at least 50 yards out.”
On the other side of the dunes, a quarter mile away, sit two artificial hills some 50 feet high. Those are NASA’s two biggest launchpads. And to the south sit several smaller ones.
This is America’s busiest spaceport, and the water is coming.
Like so much of Florida, the Space Coast — a 72-mile stretch along the Atlantic — is feeling the threat of climate change. Some of the erosion is caused by the churning energy of ocean currents along the coastline. Hurricane Sandy, whose power was almost certainly strengthened by climate change, took a big bite in 2012, flattening an already damaged dune line that provided protection from the Atlantic’s battering.
A rising sea level will bring even greater risk over time — and perhaps sooner than most researchers expected. According to a study published last week, warming pressure on the Antarctic ice sheet could help push sea levels higher by as much as five or six feet by the end of this century. [more]