By Lise Alves, Contributing Reporter

MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Coastal communities face many challenges with sea level rise, many of which may be hard to visualize. Now a climate scientist is using virtual reality technology to show these residents what will actually happen in the near future to their community if they do not take action to combat the rise of the oceans.

Miami Beach, Florida,Residents of Santa Cruz observe through virtual reality what their community will look like with sea level rise.
Residents of Santa Cruz observe through virtual reality what their community will look like with sea level rise, photo internet reproduction.

“The idea is to help the city to have a tool to show folks what some of the projected impacts are but also what some of the solutions could look like,” said Juliano Calil said in an interview to National Public Radio (NPR).

Partnering up with The Nature Conservancy, Calil, with his company Virtual Planet, developed a virtual reality program in places like Turner Station, a low-income community located on a peninsula just outside Baltimore, Maryland.

According to scientists the state of Maryland as a whole can expect nearby sea levels to rise as high as seven feet by the end of the century. A 2018 report by the University of Maryland Center of Environmental Science found that the water level of the Chesapeake Bay, where the city of Baltimore sits, is rising today three times as fast as during the 1700s.

Calil, an adjunct professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in California, is also a licensed drone operator, so the virtual reality simulation combines drone footage, local land elevation and topographical maps, and 3-D modeling.

Each of the programs show the communities and shoreline as they look today from a bird’s-eye view. A sliding button at the bottom lets the user bring sea levels up as narration explains what the viewer is seeing and what will happen to the area in question.

The climate specialist first tried out his virtual reality program in Santa Cruz, California and is also developing a similar program for Long Beach, also in California.

These virtual reality programs seek to bring to life the possible effects of sea level rise on these threatened communities and hopefully garner enough public support for climate resiliency projects.


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