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Coastal flooding on Pilottown Road in Lewes, Delaware
Coastal flooding on Pilottown Road in Lewes, Delaware

March 21: Screening of sea level rise documentary

Photo by Doug White

Panel discussion and Q&A to follow 'Tidewater' showing

Community members are invited to join University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment at Main Street Movies 5 in Newark at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 21, for a screening of the film Tidewater.

Registration is required to attend this event. Use this form to reserve a space.

Tidewater is a documentary focused on the issue of sea level rise in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The film highlights the issue of “nuisance flooding,” coastal flooding that occurs during higher-than-average tides and is a direct consequence of sea level rise and land subsidence. 

A panel discussion and audience Q&A will follow the movie.

The panelists will include Danielle Swallow, a coastal hazards specialist with Delaware Sea Grant, Chris Sommerfield, a professor in UD’s School of Marine Science and Policy, and Judy Rolfe, an environmental photographer and filmmaker who worked as an assistant producer on the film.

“The effects of sea level rise are already being felt in some parts of our region, but there is still a lack of awareness overall. This film highlights specific ways impacts are felt in one coastal Virginia community. By drawing comparisons to Delaware, we hope to spur more action to improve the resiliency of Delaware communities to sea level rise,” said Swallow.

About sea level rise

Sea level rise results from a complex combination of processes that occur simultaneously. Melting of the mountain glaciers and continental ice sheets and thermal expansion — where water molecules expand and take up more space in the ocean due to rising temperatures — combine to raise the surface of the ocean globally.

Delaware is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise because its mean elevation is among the lowest nationally at 60 feet. This flat, open coastal topography means that very small vertical increases in the water level can allow water to travel large horizontal distances. At the same time, the region experiences frequent minor and extreme flooding due to coastal storms.

The Delaware Geological Survey, in collaboration with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Delaware Coastal Programs, released a report updating sea level rise planning scenarios for the state of Delaware in fall 2017.

About the panel

Judy Rolfe is a former USA Today photo editor, freelance photographer, digital photography instructor and documentary filmmaker. Her photography career has taken her all over the world, but she has made her home on the Delaware coast which inspired her love for the ocean and its environs.

Chris Sommerfield is a geological oceanographer and professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy. He specializes in understanding sedimentary processes in marine and estuarine environments, particularly how sedimentary changes effect coastal geomorphology, water quality and carbon cycling.

Danielle Swallow is a coastal hazards and climate resiliency specialist with Delaware Sea Grant. With 20 years of policy and planning experience in federal and state government, she works to provide technical assistance, outreach and training to Delaware communities in order to help them prepare for, and recover more readily from, hazards like storms and climate change.

This event is part of the University’s fifth annual Lights, Camera, Earth! environmental film series.

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