Sea Level Rise

Accelerated erosion

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There will always be beaches, but sea level rise will ensure that they will not be in the same place in the future. The beaches will still exist throughout this change, but many of the buildings may not. Efforts to save development, however do threaten beaches, such as shoreline armoring structures.

Although relative amounts of rise may seem very small, only a few millimeters per year, the cumulative effect of these small rises each year over a long period of time (100+ years) causes major problems. Accelerated rates of erosion are attributed to sea level rise and erosion causes large economic losses around the world each year due to the close proximity of buildings and critical infrastructure. This includes transportation systems, gas and oil lines as well as electricity lines and power plants.

Most developed coasts and beaches have buildings very close to the ocean leaving little room for the ever-expanding ocean. The future effects of sea level rise on coastal civilization over the entire world are of great concern. Over half of the world’s population lives within 100 km of the coast. Over the next 50 years, damage due to coastal development will be devastating, but if the rate of sea level rise increases, the results could be catastrophic. This issue threatens areas from New York City in the United States to the Pearl River Delta in China to the Maldives.

The world map below allows you to see elevations of coastal areas. Areas in red are the lowest in elevation and are most prone to flooding. Check out Manhattan in New York City. If you think the situation there looks dire, be sure to check out the effects of a 2 m rise in sea level on Pearl River Delta in China, home to more than 40 million people. Map courtesy of

Surfing in / Sea Level Rise

Is the Ocean Melting the Ice?

Global sea level rise is one of the major environmental challenges of the 21st Century, and Greenland is central to the problem. That massive ice sheet touches the sea along more than 44,000 kilometers of jagged coastline, and the ice sheet is not just melting from warm air temperatures above; it is also likely being melted from water below.

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Sea levels set to ‘rise far more rapidly than expected’

New research factors in collapsing Antarctic ice sheet that could double the sea-level rise to two metres by 2100 if emissions are not cut

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Coastal erosion claiming one metre of land from Geraldton beach each year, study reveals

Coastal erosion is claiming more than a metre of land every year from parts of a seaside city on Western Australia’s Mid West coast, and the rate has increased significantly in recent decades, a new study has revealed.

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As U.S. Coastal Cities Swell, Rising Seas Threaten Millions

That combination of rising populations and rising seas could see millions of Americans living in homes that flood regularly during the decades ahead, according to a nationwide analysis.

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Sea level rise is accelerating; how much it costs is up to us

Important new research shows that sea levels are rising at unprecedented rates, and will have tremendous costs if we don’t slow them.

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This mind-boggling study shows just how massive sea level rise really is

As our planet continues to warm, coastlines worldwide will retreat inland — in the long run, maybe by a lot. It seems doubtful that we can defend all of the many coastal zones that will be at risk. But in a new study just out in the open access journal Earth System Dynamics, scientists have actually published an idea for doing that and provided some calculations regarding the scale of what it would take.

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Nansen Breaking Up with Antarctica

A floating shelf of ice attached to the coast of Antarctica appears ready to shed an iceberg into the Southern Ocean. Over the course of two years, a small crack grew large enough to spread across nearly the entire width of the Nansen Ice Shelf.

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UCSB Researchers Studying El Niño Sea Level Rise, CA

Since the arrival of El Niño in November, sea levels have risen 20 cm to become a surrogate for the next 250 years of climate change, giving scientists the prime opportunity to study future erosion of the Santa Barbara coastline.

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Rethinking Urban Landscapes To Adapt to Rising Sea Levels

From Shanghai and Mumbai to New York and Buenos Aires, even a few feet of sea level rise threatens to flood homes and highways, inundate sewage treatment plants, and contaminate drinking water. Landscape architect Kristina Hill argues that cities need to start planning now for impacts that will happen 50 or 100 years in the future.

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Recent / Sea Level Rise

Long-term solution sought to problem of Ocean Beach erosion

February 29th, 2016

Every few years, caravans of yellow trucks move thousands of tons of sand from the north end of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach to eroded areas at the south end. And almost immediately, the silvery tide begins carrying it back to where it came from.

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Tanzania: Rising Sea Ruins Isles Beaches

February 24th, 2016

The Union Government cannot just look at Zanzibar sinking without providing help, said officials after a short tour to areas affected by erosion caused by the sea rise. Negative impacts of climate change in the Islands are real, and aggravated by people’s unnecessary cutting down of trees, and illegal mining to get sand and stones as building materials.

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Sea levels rose faster in 20th century than in previous 2,700 years, says study

February 23rd, 2016

Scientists have modeled a history of the planet’s sea levels spanning back 3,000 years, and concluded that the rate of increase last century “was extremely likely faster than during any of the 27 previous centuries.”

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Can art help? Museums joining the conversation about sea-level rise and climate change

February 15th, 2016

Topics like climate change and sea-level rise are not only reserved for government and university research. The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art and local museums, are joining the conversation.

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Study: Rising Seas Slowed by Increasing Water on Land

February 15th, 2016

New measurements from a NASA satellite have allowed researchers to identify and quantify, for the first time, how climate-driven increases of liquid water storage on land have temporarily slowed the rate of sea level rise by about 20 percent.

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Sea-level rise ‘could last twice as long as human history’

February 13th, 2016

Huge sea-level rises caused by climate change will last far longer than the entire history of human civilisation to date, according to new research, unless the brief window of opportunity of the next few decades is used to cut carbon emissions drastically.

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Antarctic study identifies melting ice sheet’s role in sea level rise

February 4th, 2016

Loss of ice in Antarctica caused by a warming ocean could raise global sea levels by three meters, research suggests.

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Protect S.C. coast: No retreat from ‘line in the sand’

February 2nd, 2016

South Carolina faces an historic opportunity this legislative session, with a vote on the floor likely in the coming weeks. The time could not come soon enough, as our coastal communities face record-breaking storm surges, sea level rise, and flooding events.

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Shifting Sands, Shifted Rights: The Beach as Contested Space

January 28th, 2016

Determining rights to Florida’s sandy beaches has presented a thorny set of issues. But for many years, the public and private interests have co-existed. Now, along with population growth, sea level rise and relentless erosion have become an uncomfortable reality. The infinite variety of scenarios that sea level rise is presenting and will present along the coast will challenge our legal system in many ways.

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Climate change: Ocean warming underestimated

January 27th, 2016

To date, research on the effects of climate change has underestimated the contribution of seawater expansion to sea level rise due to warming of the oceans. A team of researchers has now investigated, using satellite data, that this effect was almost twice as large over the past twelve years than previously assumed. That may result in, for example, significantly increased risks of storm surges.

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