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Recurring Flooding

In 2012 the Virginia General Assembly passed a bill to study sea level rise, but only if the phrase “sea level rise” was replaced with “recurrent flooding”.   Four years later, with sea levels still rising, Virginia was happy to accept $100 million from the Federal Government to help safeguard Norfolk, VA from recurrent flooding.  The Naval Station in Norfolk, the largest in the world, wasn’t so lucky as a recent effort to secure funding to safeguard the base was rejected by the House as distracting our military “with a radical climate change agenda.”


This seems bizarre that our Navy is in danger of being washed to sea!  This information is found in the article, Flooding of Coast, Caused by Global Warming, Has Already Begun.  It ties in nicely with the conversation we are hiving in class about the social construction of statistics, and how issues need “problem promoters” to gain attention.  Joel Best, in Damned Lies and Statistics, talks about social statistics having two purposes: one to simply describe a phenomenon like sea level rise, and the second to back political agendas as mentioned above.  Discriminating between competing political agendas requires sophisticated reasoning skills, and our students need practice and guidance in this.

Is sea level rise getting worse?  A nice metric for this is given in the article in terms of “nuisance days of flooding” for cities along the Atlantic Coast.  Clearly the answer is “yes” for the data given.  The reason why is a much thornier topic.  Question 4c on the quiz below is great, forcing to students to appreciate that when we say: “Mean sea levels have risen 11 inches”, you need to ask “Risen from what benchmark?”  Enjoy!

Q2 Flooding

  1. Joel Best says that social statistics have two purposes, one public and one hidden. What is the hidden purpose?
  2. Joel Best talks about the social construction of social problems.
    1. In our article, Flooding of Coast, Caused by Global Warming, Has Already Begun, the problem of cost to cities and towns due to flooding is outlined. In what sense has the problem of coastal flooding been socially “constructed”?
    2. The article states that sea-level rise “could reach a foot per decade by the 22nd century, about 10 times faster than today.” Use this to compute how much the sea-level is rising per year
  3. The Flooding of Coast article mentions that opponents of climate change have argued that the science is based on unproven computer forecasts. What evidence, in fact, is much of the science based on?

  4. The graphic below is from the article.

    1. Estimate the average days of nuisance flooding from 2001 to 2015 and also from 1986 -2000 for Charleston, SC.
    2. Compute the ratio of the average from 2001-2015 to the average from 1986-2000, and scale the second quantity to one. Use this ratio in a sentence.
    3. The graphic shows a mean sea level rise of 11 inches for 2015. The word “rise” implies 11 inches above some mark, what is this baseline measurement?




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