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

Sudden Draining of Glacial Lakes Explained


In 2008 scientists from WHOI and the University of Washington documented for the first time how the icy bottoms of lakes atop the Greenland Ice Sheet can crack open suddenly—draining the lakes completely within hours and sending torrents of water to the base of the ice sheet thousands of feet below. Now they have found a surprising mechanism that triggers the cracks.

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El Niño Can Raise Sea Levels Along U.S. Coast


A new study has found that the cyclical climate phenomenon can ratchet up sea levels off the West Coast by almost 8 inches over just a few seasons.

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Nature Confronts Politics in North Carolina


As local politicians underestimate rising sea levels, coastal communities are coming up with their own plans.

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Sudden and Rapid Ice Loss Discovered in Antarctica


Scientists have observed a sudden increase of ice loss in a previously stable region of Antarctica. This makes the region the second largest contributor to sea level rise in Antarctica and the ice loss shows no sign of waning.

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Sea Level is Rising Fast – And It Seems to be Speeding Up


Many observations have shown that sea level rose steadily over the 20th century – and at a faster rate than over the previous centuries. It is also clear from both satellite and coastal observations that seas have risen faster over the past two decades than they did for the bulk of the 20th century.

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NASA Study Shows Antarctica’s Larsen B Ice Shelf Nearing Its Final Act


A new NASA study finds the last remaining section of Antarctica’s Larsen B Ice Shelf, which partially collapsed in 2002, is quickly weakening and likely to disintegrate completely before the end of the decade.

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That ‘More Realistic’ Sea-Level Report? Not Good News for NC


An Op-Ed by Robert Young, director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines and a professor of coastal geology at Western Carolina University.

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Climate: 9 Questions on Rising Seas


How and why are the seas rising?

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Melting Antarctic: Failure to Act Now on Emissions Could Raise Oceans by Metres


In recent decades, Antarctica and Greenland have played minor roles in the world’s rising oceans. But this is changing. Rising sea levels don’t just put places underwater, but every centimetre increases the impacts that storm surges have on people, homes and coastal infrastructure.

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Recent / Sea Level Rise

Report: Soft Sand will Eventually End Beach Driving in Volusia County, Florida


April 19th, 2015

Soft sand shifting south will eventually mean cars will no longer be able to drive along the beaches in Volusia County. According to the study, ocean levels are rising every year, which means Mother Nature may eventually decide if cars should remain on the beach regardless of what the sand does. The report also states cities with limited beach driving have higher real estate values.

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A New Report Lays Bare the Effects of Climate Change on the N.C. Coast


April 9th, 2015

The data are in, and the numbers are unequivocal: the coast of North Carolina, and especially the northern part of the Outer Banks, is sinking into the sea.

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What the Earth Would Look Like if all the Ice Melted, Video


April 8th, 2015

As National Geographic showed us in 2013, sea levels would rise by 216 feet if all the land ice on the planet were to melt. This would dramatically reshape the continents and drown many of the world’s major cities.

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Communicating a Hurricane’s Real Risks


April 7th, 2015

A surprising and little known fact: More than half of those who die during hurricanes perish from drowning. For the first time this year, scientists began communicating warnings that included storm surge.

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New Interactive Storm-Surge Map Helps Residents See Potential Flood Risks


April 7th, 2015

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is testing a new feature that lets people get a look at what kind of damage and storm surges are possible, and using nearby Charleston for the preliminary model.

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Sand Cents


April 2nd, 2015

The value of many oceanfront properties on the East Coast could drop dramatically if Congress were to suddenly end federal beach nourishment subsidies. Values could fall by as much as 17 percent in towns with high property values and almost 34 percent in towns with low property values.

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Revised NC Sea Level Report Predicts Rise Along Entire Coast


April 2nd, 2015

Released Tuesday by the Coastal Resources Commission’s Science Panel, the report presents three scenarios for rising seas along the coast through 2045, based on global predictions and historical data from five tidal gauges.

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Big Shelves Of Antarctic Ice Melting Faster Than Scientists Thought


March 27th, 2015

The Antarctic is far away, freezing and buried under a patchwork of ice sheets and glaciers. But a warming climate is altering that mosaic in unpredictable ways — research published Thursday shows that the pace of change in parts of the Antarctic is accelerating.

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Doubling of Coastal Erosion by Mid-Century in Hawai’i


March 24th, 2015

Chronic erosion dominates the sandy beaches of Hawai’i, causing beach loss as it damages homes, infrastructure, and critical habitat. Researchers have long understood that global sea level rise will affect the rate of coastal erosion. However, new research indicates that coastal erosion of Hawai’i’s beaches may double by mid-century.

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Facing Coastal Erosion: a Dilemma for the Residents


March 24th, 2015

This past week’s exceptionally high tides revived a debate that has been dividing residents of the Atlantic island of Noirmoutier, off Vendée’s coast, France.

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