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

The Barrier Islands: Islands in Motion

North Carolina is famous for its beautiful set of coastal barrier islands. But did you know that those islands are mobile? Around 14 thousand years ago, as the last ice age was coming to a close, sea level began to rise as water was released from the glaciers.

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Rain, Storm Surge Combine to Put Coasts at Risk

Many more coastal residents are at threat from the meteorological double whammy of freshwater flooding and storm surge, (compound flooding events) which a new study finds is a serious threat for large stretches of U.S. coast, where more than half of the country’s population lives in densely populated areas and where development has been steadily rising in recent decades.

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Disastrous Sea Level Rise Is an Issue for Today’s Public – Not Next Millennium’s

The bottom line message scientists should deliver to policymakers is that we have a global crisis, an emergency that calls for global cooperation to reduce emissions as rapidly as practical.

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Climate Change Threatens China’s Booming Coastal Cities, Says Expert

A recent study led by Georgina Mace, ecosystem professor at University College London, indicated that governments across the world have failed to grasp the risk that population booms in coastal cities pose as climate change continues to cause rises in sea levels and extreme weather events.

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Detailed Flood Information Key to More Reliable Coastal Storm Impact Estimates


A new study that looked in part at how damage estimates evolve following a storm puts the total amount of building damage caused by Hurricane Sandy for all evaluated counties in New York at $23 billion. Estimates of damage by county ranged from $380 million to $5.9 billion.

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Here Are 10 Striking Images of Future Sea Levels

To really understand what climate change could mean for coastal areas, photos really do the trick.

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Coastal Nations, Megacities Face 20 Feet of Sea Rise

If, as suggested by a comprehensive new review in the journal Science, 2°C of global warming will lock in at least 20 feet (6 meters) of eventual sea level rise, what would 2°C of warming (3.6°F) mean for the future and heritage of global nations and cities?

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Coastal Erosion Eats Away at Mokau, New Zealand

At one pristine coastal spot in the Waikato, less than $100,000 can buy you a tidy, three-bedroom bach. The catch is, the sea may steal the land underneath it at some point in the future.

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Erosion and the Disappearance of Senegal’s coast

At their recent summit in Germany, G7 leaders agreed to limit global warming to 2°C, but along Senegal’s coast, the consequences of climate change are already tangible. The coastline is suffering severe land loss due to erosion.

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Recent / Sea Level Rise

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

May 29th, 2015

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

May 26th, 2015

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

May 21st, 2015

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

May 20th, 2015

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

May 17th, 2015

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

May 6th, 2015

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

May 6th, 2015

How and why are the seas rising?

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

May 5th, 2015

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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The State That ‘Outlawed Climate Change’ Accepts Latest Sea-Level Rise Report

May 5th, 2015

Five years ago, the Science Panel of the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commissioner presented a report outlining that sea levels along the coast could rise as much as 39 inches over the next 100 years. The General Assembly passed a law forbidding communities from using this report to pass new rules. Now, almost three years later, the scientists have come back with a new report, but it is hardly complete and universal.

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Engineers Warn East Coast Storms Point to Future Flooding, Erosion risks, Push for Town Planning Changes

May 4th, 2015

Recent catastrophic flood events in New South Wales should sound warnings for communities across the country, water engineers say.

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