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Outer Banks, NC

February 2, 2006

North Carolina's Outer Banks Threatened

North Carolina's barrier islands -the Outer Banks - comprise one of America's national treasures. The Outer Banks provides spectacular scenery to approximately 11 million visitors annually and provides the state with billions of dollars in revenue.

It is also one of the lowest coastal areas in the country, susceptible to flooding and salt water inundation. The International Panel on Climate Change conservatively estimates that global sea level will likely rise nearly two feet this century and geologists estimate that nearly 2,000 square miles of coast could be submerged by 2100.

Rising water and erosion may already be removing up to 1,250 acres of shoreline and wetlands along the northeastern N.C. sounds each year.

Hurricanes can accelerate the process, often with just one storm washing away 20 feet or more of beach. When Hurricane Isabel opened a 1,700-foot-wide inlet through Hatteras Island two years ago, the Pamlico Sound's waters became saltier, threatening habitat for crabs, fish and oysters.

Many scientists are concerned that ultimately the accelerated melting of the Earth's ancient ice formations could significantly raise the level of the sea by as much as 23 feet - wiping out thousands of cities worldwide.

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