Stephen K. Boss – Far-Field Effects of Sea-Level Rise: We Are All Coastal

Stephen K. Boss, Professor of Environmental Dynamics and Sustainability in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Arkansas, presented 'Far-Field Effects of Sea-Level Rise: We Are All Coastal,' at 6 p.m. Wed., February 10, 2021, at the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History. Boss's lecture outlines the important potential impacts of sea-level rise on the United States Heartland.

Earth’s climate is warming and sea level worldwide is rising. As the Earth warms, so too does the ocean, causing the ocean volume to expand and raise sea level. A warming Earth melts mountain glaciers and polar ice caps, raising sea level. Rising sea level has immediate and obvious impacts to the coastal United States; however, sea level and its impacts reach deep into the United States Heartland remote from the coasts.

Rising global temperatures and rising sea level alter the water budget of the continental interior. Altered continental water cycles impact heartland agriculture, the hydrodynamics of continental river systems, U.S. river commerce, and the millions of Americans residing in major river corridors. Rising sea level induces population displacement and migration from coastal areas to the continental interior. Broad relocations from the coastal zone impact those who must migrate and the continental heartland communities that receive them. Resource flows of material and capital from the U.S. Heartland to coastal regions will accelerate as sea level rises and the nation fortifies coastal infrastructure to hold back the sea. Capital flows from the continental interior to the coastal zone represent a large transfer of public wealth from largely impoverished counties of interior states to generally more affluent counties of the coasts. The societal impacts of that wealth transfer on continental interior communities are not well-studied or understood.

Boss holds a BS-Magna Cum Laude in Geology from Bemidji State University, an MS in Geology from Utah State University, and a PhD in Marine Sciences from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. From 2002–2015, he served as director of the interdisciplinary doctoral program in Environmental Dynamics at the University of Arkansas. Boss was the architect of sustainability curricula at the University of Arkansas and from 2010–2015 also served as Director of Sustainability Academic Programs. He considers himself an interdisciplinary scientist and has ongoing research interests in natural resource dynamics, global agriculture, global fisheries, and equity and inclusion in the geosciences.

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