2022 Magazine - Gold

Unlike rising seas, where the dangers are obvious, groundwater rise has remained under the public’s radar during the growing concern about climate change, Kendra Pierre-Louis reported. Hydrologists are aware of the problem, and it is the subject of ample scholarly research, she wrote, “but it has yet to surface in a significant way outside of those bubbles.” Groundwater rise is only briefly mentioned in the most recent edition of the National Climate Assessment, released in 2018, she reported, and it is absent from many state and regional climate adaptation plans, and even from flood maps. A 2021 study in the journal Cities found that when coastal cities conduct a climate vulnerability assessment, they rarely factor in groundwater rise. The impact on existing infrastructure could be catastrophic, Pierre-Louis reported, and remediation efforts that haven’t planned for groundwater rise will be rendered useless. One study found that when groundwater rise is factored into flood risks, the area threatened nationwide was more than twice the area at risk from sea-level rise alone. Among the communities at risk are Miami, Washington, D.C., Oakland, Calif., and Brooklyn, N.Y. Worldwide, the area at risk includes portions of northwestern Europe and coastal areas of the United Kingdom, Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. Judge Richard van Noorden, features editor for Nature, said “Pierre-Louis’ gripping and memorable article about rising groundwater vividly weaves together human stories and science to explain this under-appreciated consequence of climate change.” Amanda Buckiewicz, a science journalist and producer for CBC/Radio-Canada, said: “With so many writers tackling climate change these days, this piece was truly a standout, with a well-crafted, engaging narrative combined with rock-solid science reporting.” Kendra Pierre-Louis said: “I'm proud to receive this award, because it shows both how important it is to clearly articulate climate science and how vital it is to marry that science with an understanding of climate change's impact on us as people.”