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

Better Urban Planning Needed To Dodge Disasters


With the world’s mega-cities growing even larger, policymakers, especially those in developing countries, need urban planning that will help these areas withstand the impacts of natural disasters.

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Waterworld: Cities of the future?


For years, scientists have warned about the danger of rising sea levels, and thanks to an artist’s projections, we can see now what the impacts might look like in real life.

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Americans Back Preparation for Extreme Weather and Sea Level Rise


Images told the story: lower Manhattan in darkness, coastal communities washed away, cars floating in muck. Superstorm Sandy, a harbinger of future extreme weather intensified by climate change, caught the U.S. off guard. Going forward, Americans face a stark choice: prepare and invest now to minimize the impact of disasters such as Sandy, or deal with storms and rising sea levels when they occur.

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It’s Move It or Lose It in Path of a Nor’easter


As a nor’easter pounded Plum Island, Mass., this month, moving trucks were being filled with belongings from damaged homes. Officials say some houses should be moved away from the coastline.

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Katrina-Like Storm Surges Could Become Norm


Last year’s devastating flooding in New York City from Hurricane Sandy was the city’s largest storm surge on record. Though Hurricane Sandy was considered a 100-year-event, a storm that lashes a region only once a century, a new study finds global warming could bring similar destructive storm surges to the Gulf and East Coasts of the United States every other year before 2100.

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Significant Contribution of Greenland’s Peripheral Glaciers to Sea-Level Rise


Glaciers at the edge of Greenland which are not connected to its huge ice sheet, or can be clearly separated from it, are contributing to sea-level rise much more than previously thought.

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Hunting High Sea Levels in South Africa


Along the coast of South Africa, researchers explore ancient rock formations dating to a period about 120,000 years ago when the earth was warmer and sea level was higher than today, trying to find clues and determine just how high the oceans might rise in a warmer world.

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Canada’s Arctic Glaciers Headed For Unstoppable Thaw


Canada’s Arctic Archipelago glaciers will melt faster than ever in the next few centuries.

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The Making of Antarctica’s Hidden Fjords


Antarctica’s topography began changing from flat to fjord-filled starting about 34 million years ago. Knowing when Antarctica’s topography started shifting from a flat landscape to one with glaciers, fjords and mountains is important for modeling how the Antarctic ice sheet affects global climate and sea-level rise.

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Recent / Sea Level Rise

Retooling New York for Apocalyptic Storms


February 13th, 2013

During World War II, a German U-boat made its way into New York Harbour. It fired two torpedoes at a British tanker, splitting the hull in three places and igniting it in flames. The captain and 35 members of his crew burned to death. Seventy years later, New York Harbour is Lower Manhattan’s first line of defence against another threat: the rising tides of the sea.

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Climate Change Impacts to U.S. Coasts Threaten Public Health, Safety and Economy


January 28th, 2013

According to a new technical report, the effects of climate change will continue to threaten the health and vitality of U.S. coastal communities’ social, economic and natural systems.

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How High Could the Tide Go?


January 26th, 2013

Researchers explored ancient rock formations on South Africa’s coast. They are looking for critical clues from records of past climate change to help predict sea level rise in a warming world.

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Iconic Beach Resorts May Not Survive Sea Level Rises


January 16th, 2013

Professor Andrew Cooper, Professor of Coastal Studies in the School of Environmental Sciences at the university’s Coleraine campus, said a rise in sea level of even a few feet could threaten some of the world’s most iconic resorts.

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Antarctica Glacier’s Retreat ‘Unprecedented’


January 15th, 2013

In recent decades, Pine Island Glacier’s rapid retreat raised fears that the glacier could “collapse,” freeing the ice sheet it buffers to flow even more rapidly into the southern seas. The West Antarctic Ice contributes 0.15 to 0.30 millimeters per year to sea level rise.

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Too Big to Flood? Megacities Face Future of Major Storm Risk


January 12th, 2013

As economic activity and populations continue to expand in coastal urban areas, particularly in Asia, hundreds of trillions of dollars of infrastructure, industrial and office buildings, and homes are increasingly at risk from intensifying storms and rising sea levels.

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Future Sea Level Rise from Melting Ice Sheets May Be Substantially Greater Estimated


January 9th, 2013

Future sea level rise due to the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets could be substantially larger than estimated in Climate Change 2007, the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC, according to new research from the University of Bristol.

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Mutant Fruit Trees to Grow in Saline Soils in Cuba


December 20th, 2012

During some parts of the year, a layer of salt can be seen on the ground in eastern Cuba, which makes it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to farm. Since agronomist Orlando Coto saw this with his own eyes, he has been searching for salt-tolerant fruit trees.

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King tides test California coast, show what sea-level rise could mean


December 14th, 2012

Some Californians were in for another day of ankle-deep seawater in low-lying coastal communities Friday as unusually high “king tides” pulled the Pacific farther ashore than normal.

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Coastal Erosion Threatens Cape Breton Homes, Nova Scotia


December 9th, 2012

Sea ice once offered some protection, but there’s much less ice these days as the wind and waves are bringing the shoreline closer to their front doors, some Cape Breton residents fear their homes will be washed away…

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