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Skip Navigation LinksDNREC : Climate Change : Climate Change Delaware Coastal Impacts

Climate Change


Delaware and coastal impacts


The coast of Delaware is perhaps the state’s most vital resource. Its 381 miles of shoreline, including the 24 miles that front the Atlantic Ocean, provides economic benefits from tourism, coveted high-value space for commercial and residential development, and many forms of recreation, including boating, fishing, and beachgoing.

Delaware’s coastline also is an important ecological resource—providing habitat for a variety of plants, animals, insects, migratory birds, and a multitude of other terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. Delaware’s shoreline includes barrier beaches, inland bays, small islands, and highly productive estuaries, marshes, and tidal flats.

Historical data indicates that sea level has been rising in Delaware since the last Ice Age. Recent sediment analysis and historical tidal gauge records in the area show a rising sea level trend of about 3 mm per year, or about one foot over the last 100 years.

Photo by Elena Tkacz

Delaware’s 381 miles of shoreline, including the 24 miles that front the Atlantic Ocean, could be at risk from increased coastal erosion, storm surge, and inundation due to continued sea level rise. 


If these trends continue into the future, Delaware’s coastal resources and communities could be at risk.


Potential effects from sea-level rise include inundation of wetlands and other low-lying lands, erosion of beaches, intensified flooding, and increased salinity of rivers, bays, and groundwater tables. Also, as sea level rises, storm surge becomes more of a threat to property located along the coast. Although sea level rise itself is too gradual to create severe flooding problems for property located along the Delaware coast, sea level rise can be a contributing factor to property damage when coupled with storm surge. Coastal property and property located within tidal floodplains is particularly susceptible to increased damage from coastal storms and associated storm surge.


Click on the links below to learn more about how global climate change may affect the coast of Delaware:


Sea level rise

Shoreline erosion, migration and coastal flooding

Wetlands and intertidal habitat loss

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