August 22, 2008

Study Gauges Meadowlands Sea-Level Rise ; 7 Stations Set Up in Region


Scientists are setting up monitoring stations throughout the Meadowlands to chart rising sea levels and prepare for flooding that could result from global warming.

Information gathered from the seven stations will eventually show which marshes, neighborhoods and business areas are most susceptible to rising waters.

Water levels in the Meadowlands have risen on average 1.7 to 1.8 millimeters each year for the last 15 years, said Francisco Artigas, director of the Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute.

"It will only continue unless we reduce our carbon emissions," Artigas said.

The stations, the first in North Jersey, will also be networked with the U.S. Geological Survey, which is measuring sea levels along the east coast.

"We are connected to the bigger picture," Artigas said. "We are in touch with the scientists who are looking at the national and regional trends."

The Meadowlands Commission already has set up stations in Lyndhurst, in the Secaucus High School marsh, near the Saw Mill Creek in Secaucus and two in the Riverbend Marsh in Kearny.

Two stations will soon be installed near Berry's Creek in Carlstadt, where mercury and chemicals have polluted the marshes for decades. Rising sea levels could spread the toxic material.

"In a place that has contaminated sediments, this becomes even more critical," Edward Konsevick, a senior environmental scientist at MERI, said of the monitoring stations.

Last month, researchers at the University of Maryland said that parts of the Meadowlands and areas along the Hackensack and Passaic rivers that feed it will be inundated as sea levels rise.

The Meadowlands district floods routinely during heavy storms.

Its 8,400 acres of wetlands are natural sponges for water and act as a safeguard for a storm or tidal surge. If the marshes were to be inundated with water, so too would much of the 14-town district, scientists said.

Although climate change is a global phenomenon, the report said the impact on New Jersey will likely include more homes and cities because of dense development along the coast and in marshlands.


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