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Flooding fears for Mayo after rising seas forecast

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Images from Climate Central, with red areas showing projected flooding in Co Mayo.


Edwin McGreal


An alarming study has projected which parts of the world will be  most exposed to rising seas by 2050 and many coastal regions in Mayo are affected.
Large parts of Erris, Achill and the west Mayo coast are at risk of being below the high tide line by 2050, according to the research carried out by Climate Central, a non-profit science organisation based in New Jersey, USA.
The research, which has been published in the journal Nature Communications and in The New York Times, shows that rising seas could affect three times more people by 2050 than previously thought.
While there has been much discussion and debate about how climate change might affect particular areas, the specific nature of this research allows for a sobering assessment of exact areas under particular threat. In Mayo, many homes, businesses and critical infrastructure will be at risk, according to the report.
Scott A Kulp, a researcher at Climate Central and one of the paper’s authors, told The New York Times that standard elevation measurements using satellites struggle to differentiate the true ground level from the tops of trees or buildings.
He and Benjamin Strauss, Climate Central’s chief executive, used artificial intelligence to determine the error rate and correct for it.
The result is an extraordinary map of the world where people can zoom in anywhere to see the specific nature of the threat in any part of the globe.

Mayo concerns
In Mayo long coastal stretches north and south of Louisburgh town are under threat. In the Westport area, there is a large parcel of land in Carrowholly projected to be below the tideline in 2050. Carrowholly has, in the last decade, suffered from a number of flooding incidents.
Many islands in Clew Bay are also under threat while Bertra Beach is also in peril.
In Mulranny land on both sides of the bay in the village are at risk, as are parts of the N59 road leaving the village for Ballycroy.
In Achill, coastal parts of Keel, Dooagh, Dugort, The Valley, Dooniver and Tonragee are at particular risk while large tranches of coastal parts of Ballycroy are also mapped as being areas of concern.
Moving further into Erris and areas around Geesala and Doohoma in the parish of Kiltane are at risk while moving into Belmullet itself, considerable coastal areas in the Mullet peninsula are under threat, according to the paper.
Areas on the eastern side of the peninsula are under greater threat than those on the more exposed western side.
On Erris’s north coast, coastal parts of Barnatra, Rossport, Cornboy and Carrowteige are under threat. Further east a significant parcel of land due north of Ballycastle village is at risk while coastal parts of Lacken and Killala are also affected.
Elsewhere in Ireland large parts of land on the north and south sides of the Shannon Estuary are at risk while a significant parcel of land close to Listowel in Tralee is under threat. In Dublin parts of Portmarnock and Malahide are also at risk.
The threat is great in other parts of the world also, with significant parts of coastal Asia under huge threat.
The Climate Central paper states that in the region of 150 million people worldwide are now living on land that will be below the high-tide line by 2050.
Southern Vietnam could all but disappear while Thailand is in peril too. Large cities such as  Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok are among those considered at risk.
Shanghai in China, one of the largest cities in the world, is also considered under threat as is Mumbai in India. The research does demonstrate the findings does not have to mean the end for those areas projected as being below the high tide line by 2050.
The data shows that 110 million people already live in places below the high tide line.
Benjamin Strauss told The New York Times that protective measures like seawalls and other barriers played a significant role and further such investment is needed for areas projected to be under threat by 2050.
He added that defensive measures can only do so much, citing the example of New Orleans, a city below sea level devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when its protections failed.
On their website, Climatecentral.org, the non-profit organisation state that ‘global warming has raised global sea level about eight inches since 1880, and the rate of rise is accelerating. Rising seas dramatically increase the odds of damaging floods from storm surges’.