Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Episode 494 (10-14-19): Exploring Sea-level Rise and Coastal Flooding with “Cypress Canoe” by Bob Gramann

Click to listen to episode (5:36)

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Extra Information
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 10-11-19.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of October 14, 2019.

MUSIC – ~ 7 sec – instrumental

This week, music by a Fredericksburg, Va., singer-songwriter opens an episode about a sea change affecting many coastal and tidal areas.  Have a listen for about 30 more seconds.

MUSIC - ~30 sec

“My folks lived in Old Town when I was a kid.
Cycling past tourists, that’s what I did.
At the end of King Street, there was a palace for art.
Watching the buskers there game me my start.
I still like to visit those places I knew
So I paddle around in my cypress canoe.”

You’ve been listening to part of “Cypress Canoe,” by Bob Gramann, from his 2019 album, “I Made It Just For You.”  The song imagines a time in Old Town Alexandria, Va., when there’d be so much water that one would need a canoe to travel to places formerly on land.  The song’s humor and exaggerated images aim to get listeners thinking about the real and serious impacts of climate change and, particularly, sea-level rise.

Sea-level rise is attributed to a combination of a warming climate and, in some areas including Virginia, land subsidence that increases the relative rise.  In Virginia, sea-level rise is contributing to increased coastal flooding that goes by various names, including “recurrent flooding,” “high-tide flooding,” or “sunny day flooding,” all referring to flooding not associated with major storms.  Virginia’s Hampton Roads is considered one of the U.S. areas most vulnerable to the impacts of sea-level rise, both because of the level of rises and the population at risk.

Mr. Gramann’s song is one artistic response to sea-level rise.  Responses aimed to reduce its impacts are often called resilience.  Let’s explore some resilience efforts in Virginia.

The General Assembly has had a joint subcommittee on coastal flooding since 2014.

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science, or VIMS, published a 2013 report on recurrent flooding in Tidewater Virginia, and VIMS is continuing work in education and research.

The Nature Conservancy and several partners have developed a coastal resilience mapping and decision support tool; Virginia’s Eastern Shore is one area where it’s being applied.

Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk participated in Dutch Dialogues-Virginia, a 2015 workshop on water-management strategies with experts from the Netherlands.

Norfolk’s efforts include citizen input and communication, a coastal flood study, regional partnerships, and stormwater projects.

The Resilient Hampton initiative seeks to improve resilience through engineering, urban design, environmental restoration, and community development.

Virginia Beach is developing a “Comprehensive Sea Level Rise and Recurrent Flooding Response Plan.”

And back in Alexandria, a flood-mitigation project for the city’s waterfront would create an elevated promenade designed to attract commerce and function as a seawall.

Efforts like these will be on the agenda in November 2019 at the annual conference of William and Mary’s Coastal Policy Center, when the theme will be “The Three P's of Resilience: Planning, Partnerships, and Paying For It All.”  One might add persistence, as sea-level rise and recurrent flooding appear to be long-term parts of Virginia coastal life.  According to a 2008 VIMS report, that will affect “transportation, infrastructure, military installations, marine ecosystems, agriculture, human health, and recreation.”

Unlike the images in “Cypress Canoe,” it’s no exaggeration that Virginia has a lot at stake in responding to sea-level rise.

Thanks to Bob Gramann for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with about 20 more seconds of “Cypress Canoe.”

MUSIC – ~19 sec

“But ‘til then I’ll remember the home of my youth
As I paddle around in my cypress canoe.”


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at virginiawaterradio.org, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


“Cypress Canoe,” from the 2019 album “I Made It Just for You,” is copyright by Bob Gramann, used with permission.  More information about Bob Gramann is available online at https://www.bobgramann.com/folksinger.html.

Virginia Water Radio thanks Daniel McLaughlin, Virginia Water Resources Research Center and Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, for his help with this episode.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at http://newstandardbluegrass.com.


Tidal flooding in the harbor in Annapolis, Md., October 12, 2019. Photo by Paul Raflo, used with permission. For more on tidal flooding that day in Annapolis, Alexandria (Va.), and other areas along the Potomac River or Chesapeake Bay, please see Jason Samenow, Tropical Storm Melissa and hunter’s moon lead to tidal flooding along Potomac and Chesapeake Bay, Washington Post, 10/13/19.

Graph of mean sea level at Sewalls Point, Va., on the Potomac River, from 1928 to 2007.  Image taken from John Boon et al., “Planning for Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding,” Virginia Institute of Marine Science, October 2008, online (as PDF) at https://www.vims.edu/research/units/legacy/icccr/_docs/coastal_sea_level.pdf.


The following information was taken from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “U.S. ties record for number of high tide flooding days in 2018; New report cites El Nino and sea level rise as factors for expected increase in 2019,” News Release, 7/10/19.

“Coastal communities across the U.S. continued to see increased high tide flooding last year, forcing their residents and visitors to deal with flooded shorelines, streets and basements—a trend that is expected to continue this year.  The elevated water levels affected coastal economies, tourism and crucial infrastructure like septic systems and stormwater systems, according to a new NOAA report.  The report, 2018 State of High Tide Flooding and 2019 Outlook [online as a PDF at this link], documents changes in high tide flooding patterns at 98 NOAA tidal gauges along the U.S. coast that are likely to continue in the coming years.”  …High tide flooding, [see more at https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/nuisance-flooding.html], often referred to as ‘nuisance’ or ‘sunny day’ flooding, is increasingly common due to years of relative sea level increases.  It no longer takes a strong storm or a hurricane to cause flooding in many coastal areas.”


Used for Audio

John Boon et al., “Planning for Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding,” Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), October 2008, online (as PDF) at https://www.vims.edu/research/units/legacy/icccr/_docs/coastal_sea_level.pdf.  This is the VIMS report quoted near the end of this episode’s audio.

City of Alexandria, Va., “Flood Mitigation,” online at https://www.alexandriava.gov/special/waterfront/default.aspx?id=85880.

City of Hampton, Va., “Dutch Dialogues,” undated, online at https://hampton.gov/3466/Dutch-Dialogues.

City of Norfolk, Va., “Flood Awareness and Mitigation,” online at https://www.norfolk.gov/1055/Flooding-Awareness-Mitigation.

City of Virginia Beach Department of Public Works, “Comprehensive Sea Level Rise and Recurrent Flooding Response Plan,” online at https://www.vbgov.com/government/departments/public-works/comp-sea-level-rise/Pages/default.aspx.

Coastal Resilience, online at https://coastalresilience.org/. Coastal Resilience/Virginia is online at https://coastalresilience.org/category/virginia/.

Sandy Hausman, “Online Tool Helps Coastal Communities Plan for Climate Change,” WVTF FM-Roanoke, Va., 10/11/18, 2 min./34 sec. audio https://www.wvtf.org/post/online-tool-helps-coastal-communities-plan-climate-change#stream/0.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate,” September 2019, online at https://www.ipcc.ch/srocc/home/.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “U.S. ties record for number of high tide flooding days in 2018; New report cites El Nino and sea level rise as factors for expected increase in 2019,” News Release, 7/10/19.

Rita Abou Samra, “Alexandria is already often waterlogged. How will it adjust to climate change?” 9/13/18, for Greater Greater Washington, online at https://ggwash.org/view/69058/alexandria-is-already-often-waterlogged-how-will-it-adjust-to-climate-change.

SeaLevelRise.org, “Virginia’s Sea Level Is Rising—And It’s Costing Over $4 Billion,” online at https://sealevelrise.org/states/virginia/.

U.S. Climate Variability and Predictability Program (US CLIVAR), “Sea Level Hotspots from Florida to Maine—Drivers, Impacts, and Adaptation,” April 23-25, 2019, workshop in Norfolk, Va., online at https://usclivar.org/meetings/sea-level-hotspots-florida-maine.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), “Sea Level Report Cards,” online at https://www.vims.edu/research/products/slrc/index.php.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), “Recurrent Flooding Study for Tidewater Virginia,” 2013, available online (as a PDF) at http://ccrm.vims.edu/recurrent_flooding/Recurrent_Flooding_Study_web.pdf.  This study was significant in the Virginia General Assembly’s formation in 2014 of the Joint Subcommittee to Formulate Recommendations for the Development of a Comprehensive and Coordinated Planning Effort to Address Recurrent Flooding.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS)/Center for Coastal Resources Management, “Climate Change and Coastal Resilience,” online at https://www.vims.edu/ccrm/research/climate_change/index.php.  This site includes a 40-second video on sea level rise in Virginia and a 40-second video on nuisance flooding.

Virginia Legislative Information System (LIS), online at http://lis.virginia.gov/lis.htm. See particularly the following:
2014 HJR 16 and SJR 3, calling for formation of the Joint Subcommittee to Formulate Recommendations for the Development of a Comprehensive and Coordinated Planning Effort to Address Recurrent Flooding;
2016 HJ 84 and SJ 58, continuing the work of the joint subcommittee formed in 2014 and changing it to the Joint Subcommittee on Coastal Flooding;
2016 SB 282, establishing the Virginia Shoreline Resiliency Fund.

Wetlands Watch, “Dutch Dialogues—Virginia: Life at Sea Level,” online at http://wetlandswatch.org/dutch-dialogues.

William and Mary Law School/Virginia Coastal Policy Center, 7th Annual Conference: “The Three P’s of Resilience: Planning, Partnerships, and Paying for It All,” November 15, 2019, Williamsburg, Va., online at this link.

For More Information about Sea Level Rise and Responses

John A. Church et al., “Sea Level Change,” Chapter 13 of Climate Change 2013—The Physical Science Basis, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), online at https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/sea-level-change/.  The full Physical Science Basis report, from the IPCC Working Group 1, is online at https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/.  The physical science report is part of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report in 2013-2014, online at https://www.ipcc.ch/assessment-report/ar5.  A “2014 Synthesis Report” of the Fifth Assessment is online at https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/syr/.

Joey Holleman, “Designing for Water—Strategies to Mitigate Flood Impacts,” Coastal Heritage, Winter 2019, South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, online at https://www.scseagrant.org/designing-for-water/.

Jason Samenow, Tropical Storm Melissa and hunter’s moon lead to tidal flooding along Potomac and Chesapeake Bay, Washington Post, 10/13/19.

Sarah Vogelsong, Septic system failures expected to increase in coastal Virginia, Bay Journal, 7/29/19.

Sarah Vogelsong, Shoreline industry poses hazards as sea level, floods increase, Bay Journal, 8/27/19.

Sarah Vogelsong, The most important profession fighting sea-level rise you’ve never heard of, Virginia Mercury, 10/2/19.  This article discusses the role of landscape architects in responding to the stormwater challenges increased by sea-level rise.

For More Information about Cypress Canoes and Cypress Trees

Barbara Corbellini Duarte, When a canoe is more than a boat, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 4/6/16.

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum), online at https://www.chesapeakebay.net/discover/field-guide/entry/bald_cypress.

Hardwood Manufacturers’ Association, “Cypress,” online at http://www.hardwoodinfo.com/specifying-professionals/species-guide/species-guide-a-g/cypress/.

Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, “Virginia Tech Dendrology/Baldcypress,” online at https://dendro.cnre.vt.edu/dendrology/syllabus/factsheet.cfm?ID=117.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html).  See particularly the Weather/Natural Disasters subject category.

Following is a link to a previous episode on tidal flooding.

Episode 441, 10-8-18 – related to “king tides.”

Following are links to some other episodes on flooding other than tidal flooding.

Episode 272, 6-29-15 – in Madison County in 1995.
Episode 328, 8-8-16 – on flash flooding.
Episode 442, 10-15-18 – on historic-record water level marker dedication at New River.
Episode 486, 8-19-19 – in Nelson County in 1969.


The episode—the audio, extra information, or sources—may help with the following Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs).

2013 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2010 Science SOLs

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
3.10 – impacts on survival of species, including effects of fire, flood, disease, and erosion on organisms.
4.9 – Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.
6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment (including resource management and conservation, land use decisions, hazard mitigation, cost/benefit assessments).

Grades K-6 Interrelationships in Earth/Space Systems Theme
5.6 – characteristics of the ocean environment (ecological, geological, and physical).
6.8 – organization of solar system and interaction of bodies, including gravity, lunar phases, tides, space exploration.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course

LS.10 – changes over time in ecosystems, communities, and populations, and factors affecting those changes, including climate changes and catastrophic disturbances.
LS.11 – relationships between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Earth Science Course
ES.1 – current applications to reinforce science concepts.
ES.8 – influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including identification of groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia, “with reference to the hydrologic cycle.”
ES.10 – ocean processes, interactions, and policies affecting coastal zones, including Chesapeake Bay.
ES.11 – origin, evolution, and dynamics of the atmosphere, including human influences on climate.

Biology Course
BIO.8 – dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Virginia Studies Course
VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.7 – government at the state level.
CE.8 – government at the local level.
CE.10 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.2 – how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.
WG.3 – how regional landscapes reflect the physical environment and the cultural characteristics of their inhabitants.
WG.18 – cooperation among political jurisdictions to solve problems and settle disputes.

Virginia and United States History Course
VUS.13 – changes in the United States in the second half of the 20th Century.
VUS.14 – political and social conditions in the 21st Century.

Government Course
GOVT.8 – state and local government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – public policy process at local, state, and national levels.
GOVT.15 – role of government in Va. and U.S. economies, including examining environmental issues and property rights.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.