The shifting sands and ever-changing shape of North Carolina's coast may be most evident along the area's barrier islands, where beach towns are the front line in the conflict between human development and the natural processes that can threaten the homes and property built there.
One response to maintain beaches and fight erosion is projects that pump sand onto the shoreline.
But the beach nourishment projects that have become common topics are only one snapshot of a larger issue gaining greater attention in the state's coastal communities.
"The sea level is clearly rising," coastal geologist Robert S. Young said. "It's rising now and it has been rising."