The coastline of the USA is set to experience a rapid increase in sea levels over the next 30 years. By the year 2050, the country could see a rise in sea levels that may be equivalent to what it has experienced over the past century. These projections were observed in the Sea Level Rise Technical Report, a multi-agency report led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The report observed that the sea levels at USA coastlines, by the year 2050, are set to increase by 10-12 inches. How the overall increase is reflected by region may depend on the height of the coastline, among other factors.
What Should We Know?
Between the years 1920-2020, sea levels in the USA rose by 0.25-0.30 metres, i.e., 10-12 inches. The same amount of increase is expected to be seen in the next three decades. The report breaks it down further to suggest that the Gulf Coast may experience the highest increase in sea levels (14-18 inches). The levels may rise by 10-14 inches for the East Coast, 8-10 inches for northern Alaska and the Caribbean, 6-8 inches for the Hawai’ian islands, and 4-8 inches for the West Coast.
How Does It Affect Us?
A simple and immediate consequence of increasing sea levels is that flooding incidents and related damage may increase. Also, tide and storm surge heights are expected to increase and be experienced further inland. Major flooding is expected to increase 5x as compared to its frequency presently. Incidents of moderate flooding may occur as frequently as 4 times per year by 2050, which is 10x more than incidents today.
“By 2050, moderate flooding — which is typically disruptive and damaging by today’s weather, sea level, and infrastructure standards — is expected to occur more than 10 times as often as it does today. These numbers mean a change from a single event every 2-5 years to multiple events each year, in some places,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, NOAA National Ocean Service Director.
Locations across the country may not be uniformly affected, with some regions experiencing more intense incidents than others. Factors such as rainfall, coastal erosion, and infrastructure that is not flood-ready may add to the risk and intensity.
Why Is This Happening?
An increase in global temperatures (global warming) leads to the melting of ice around the world, adding to the sea levels. Emissions thus far are a primary factor contributing to the increasing sea levels by the way of global warming. By the year 2100, we may expect to see sea levels rise by 2 feet due to the emissions of the past. If we fail to effectively curb emissions in the near future, the sea levels may rise by as much as 7 feet by the end of the century.
“We must redouble our efforts to cut the greenhouse gases that cause climate change while, at the same time, help our coastal communities become more resilient in the face of rising seas,” said Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor.
“This report supports previous studies and confirms what we have long known: Sea levels are continuing to rise at an alarming rate, endangering communities around the world. Science is indisputable and urgent action is required to mitigate a climate crisis that is well underway,” said Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator. NASA is one of the agencies contributing to this report.
While the Sea Level Rise Technical Report pertains mainly to the USA, the situation around the world can be expected to be similar. Sea level increases may not affect every region uniformly, but every region can expect to be affected nonetheless. Even with major changes to our current emissions, the report observes, some degree of impact may be unavoidable. Projections like these may help communities around the world prepare to face intense changes.
I am a simple writer who wishes to use her skill to create more awareness about the planet that offers us life.