shows a smiling young woman in a hat standing in front of some sand dunes which could be destroyed by rising seas, a result of climate change
15-year-old reporter Hollyn Petrock

By Hollyn Petrock

I hate sand on my feet. It makes me itchy, it’s gritty and just makes my skin feel weird.

Although I have never liked the sand, I didn’t realize how much of an impact it would have on our beach. As the years go by our sea levels are rising to extreme measures.

I remember being 8 years old, seven years ago, and walking along the Topsail Island beach thinking it was a never-ending stretch from the sand dunes to the water. Now, the walk is short. 

The sea levels rising have a major effect on our climate in Onslow county and many things surrounding it. With the sea levels rising comes eroded beaches, flooding through the lowlands and changes to the nature surrounding us. 

Many people don’t notice the problems and impact that the sea level rise has because the  beach for them is a place to play or somewhere to relax and vacation.

Little do they know, it could be gone in the next 30 years. Then what? 

High waves, more storms, and climate change are washing our beach away at nearly  3.4 mm each year!

There are many different reasons the sea level is rising, but one of the most critical is the collapse of the world’s biggest glaciers. Those glaciers melting by the increase in temperatures is causing the sea level to get higher. 

The beach to me has never seemed so small. I remember going as a little girl every year since I was a baby, building sandcastles, swimming in the water, and lying down tanning by the shoreline. Now that may not be possible for any  grandchildren that I have. 

Not only does it affect the people living right on the beach, but it also affects those who live further inland. The rising sea levels cause a lot of flooding in areas that aren’t even close to the beach, which happened during Hurricanes Matthew and Florence in coastal North Carolina. That will continue to happen.

This flooding also causes our forests to be destroyed creating “ghost forests.” So while the incremental sea rise may not be affecting you directly it has a major effect on our wildlife and the future that is to come. 

Just look at the map below where I live. The red areas are places that won’t be around in 2050 due to the rising in the sea.

The scariest part about this climate change is that it will affect everyone living on the beach.

I wonder what will happen to those people or if beach houses will even be possible to build when the water rises that high? 

Although this is potentially frightening, there are things we can do to preserve our beach and make sure it is still there for the future of our land. 

Some say building breakwater barriers will help in slowing down the sea level rise.

Breakwater barriers are artificial offshore structures that protect harbors from being hit with waves. These prevent beach erosion and help the beach to grow bigger. These breakwater barriers intercept longshore currents which tend to prevent erosion. 

Another thing that could be done would be for all of us to work together to stop the sea-level rise, but that’s a lot harder.

There are some solutions or prevention methods that will slow down and hopefully stop the sea level rise.

One of them is turning to geoengineering. Construction would take place to build underwater walls otherwise known as sills.

These walls would be built where the glaciers meet the ocean. This prevention method focuses more on glacier collapse resulting in the sea levels rising which is still one of the many important reasons on why the sea is rising so rapidly. These large underwater walls are composed of the sand like substance in the inner layer and the outer layer of boulders. The walls would block the warm water so the glaciers would melt slower. 

While we can prevent the sea levels from rising we can learn to adapt to it by moving higher up on the land. There are many people already starting to alter their lifestyles to deal with this.

Sea level rise causes problems for communities, businesses and housing.

While some solutions work in other places, that  doesn’t necessarily mean they will work here. Take, for example, the building of sea walls. These barriers are built five to six feet above the sea level and they decrease flooding from tides and storms.

Beach nourishment is a very important part of our beach and how our beach stays so well sanded and it is not all eroded away. Beach nourishment is the process of adding large amounts of sand to the beach to increase the width and replace the sand lost to erosion. Surf City Mayor Doug Mendlin said during the interview, 

Preventing and stopping the sea-level rise is a challenge but there are things our generation can do to help slow it. They include:

  • Reducing our greenhouse gases;
  • Planting more trees to help stop the water from going so far when flooding occurs;
  • Protecting our wetlands because they act as buffers when flooding occurs;
  • Protecting the dunes and grasses because they help protect us from wind and wave action which is preserving the shore; and
  • Really just addressing the problem and helping to stop it is always a good way to start.

I can’t imagine my life without the beach.

I hope in the future I’ll be able to sit on Topsail Island and still have the beach I grew up on where any grandchildren I might have can experience the feeling of sand and hear the sound of waves just as I did when I was a kid.