Battle With The Sea

Rapidly rising sea levels and extreme weather, such as severe droughts and intense rain, have the potential to threaten every community and natural habitat in the Ocean State, not just along the coast. Through this ongoing series, Rhode Island Public Radio will examine the range and scope of these threats, along with the efforts underway to prepare and strengthen Rhode Island for future climate change impacts.

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Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

Many of Rhode Island’s 18th century buildings have survived a number of coastal storms in the past: the Great September Gale of 1815, the 1938 Hurricane, and most recently Superstorm Sandy. 

Photo Courtesy of Pam Rubinoff

The Hurricane of 1938 toppled some 275 million trees across New England. Today – with more trees and more buildings  – state officials see wind damage as a statewide threat because of climate change and the potential for more frequent, extreme weather events. In the next installment of our series Battle With the Sea, we look at how some homeowners are preparing to withstand winds with the force of a hurricane. 

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

Block Island has been dubbed one of “the last great places” in the western hemisphere. It has a shoreline largely untouched by development. But on the northwest corner of island, storms have been washing away at the bluffs, unearthing what used to be the island’s landfill.

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

Nearly three years after Superstorm Sandy, some Rhode Island residents are still dealing with the aftermath. And it’s not just damage to buildings and property. These Rhode Islanders are struggling with mental illness related to stress. 

grifo via Creative Commons License

The Rhode Island Department of Health did a comprehensive analysis to figure out which drinking water sources are most vulnerable to climate change to help water suppliers plan for the future. Rhode Island Public Radio’s environmental reporter Ambar Espinoza sat down with the June Swallow, chief of the Office of Drinking Water Quality at the state health department. She oversees the project called SafeWater Rhode Island

URI/RI Sea Grant

With more than 500 public drinking water suppliers in the state, the Rhode Island Department of Health is worried about how they will cope with climate-related changes like intense rains, rising seas, and warmer temperatures. For the next installment of our series, Battle With The Sea, environmental reporter Ambar Espinoza heads to Newport, home to one of the most vulnerable drinking water supplies in the state when it comes to climate change.

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

Rhode Island is losing salt marshes at an alarming rate. Scientists and coastal planners say this is one of the most pressing climate change impacts already facing the Ocean State. Salt marshes are critical fish and wildlife habitats that support the state's fishing and tourism industries.

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

Just this week, the U.S. Senate went on the record that climate change exists. Local and state officials in Rhode Island haven’t been waiting around to take the lead from Washington. They not only know climate change is real, but they’re also planning for its impacts. As part of our Battle With The Sea series, Rhode Island Public Radio’s environmental reporter Ambar Espinoza went on a tour with the Environmental Protection Agency’s northeast director to see how plans are in place.

Photo Courtesy of Janine Burke

Here’s an effect of climate change you might not have thought of: heavy rains flood wastewater treatment plants. These intense rain storms are one result of warming temperatures. As part of our ongoing series, Battle With The Sea, Rhode Island Public Radio’s environmental reporter Ambar Espinoza has a report from a wastewater treatment plant in Warwick.

The Warwick Sewer Authority is located on the banks of the Pawtuxet River, next to what is called an oxbow, the U-shape curve in a river. The river wants to fill in the land next to the oxbow each time it floods. 

Courtesy of Sara Harris / University of British Columbia

For the past three weeks, we've brought you stories about how climate change is already affecting Rhode Island. Narragansett Bay is getting warmer. Seas are rapidly rising. Shorelines are eroding. And we're experiencing more severe weather events. As part of our new ongoing series, Battle With The Sea, we take a step back this week to look at the science of how we know these changes are happening.

More than 100 people will gather in Newport today to learn how to minimize impacts to waterfront businesses from sea level rise and other severe weather at the 13th Annual Baird Symposium. The one-day conference called, "Staying Afloat: Adapting Waterfront Businesses to Rising Seas and Extreme Storms," kicked off its symposium last night with a public lecture, featuring John Englander, author of High Tide on Main Street: Rising Sea Levels and the Coming Coastal Crisis

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

Within four years, the town of Westerly experienced four major storms: the Great Flood of 2010, Hurricane Irene in 2011, Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and the February 2013 Nor’easter. Like many coastal cities and towns around the state, Westerly is also vulnerable to high tides that flood roads even without storms.

As part of our new ongoing series we’re calling “Battle With The Sea,” Rhode Island Public Radio’s environmental reporter Ambar Espinoza looks at how the town of Westerly is wrestling to shore up homes and businesses for future climate change threats.

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

Last week, we brought you the story of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s visit to Rhode Island. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse brought the Democratic senator, a strong coal advocate, to witness how climate change is wearing away the landscape here. Manchin learned from fishermen what challenges they’re facing in a changing ocean. Rhode Island Public Radio’s environmental reporter Ambar Espinoza brings you the second part of this story, when Manchin sees the effects climate change is having on land. 

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

Rapidly rising sea levels and severe weather threaten every community and natural habitat in the Ocean State, not just along the coast. Through a new ongoing series we’re calling, Battle With The Sea, Rhode Island Public Radio will examine the range and scope of these threats from city to city and town to town, and the solutions to prepare and strengthen Rhode Island for future threats to come.