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

How rising seas and coastal storms drowned the U.S. flood insurance program

Sea level rise and more severe storms are overwhelming U.S. coastal communities, causing billions of dollars in damage and essentially bankrupting the federal flood insurance program. Yet rebuilding continues, despite warnings that far more properties will soon be underwater.

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Sea level rise poses serious threat to Charleston; By Orrin H. Pilkey

Rising seas are the first truly global environmental disaster related to climate change. Millions of people will be forced from their homes as the seas drown the atoll nations, devastate much of barrier-island and river-delta civilizations and, of course, invade the world’s coastal cities including Charleston.

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In rare move, one South Florida city sues another in battle over beach erosion

A spat over sand in adjacent cities finally landed in court this week, and it already has cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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Climate change could spell ‘extreme poverty’ in coastal NZ towns

Along New Zealand’s West Coast, the shoreline has been eroding for many years, the relentless sea moves closer by the day. Now the Tasman sea has snuck into some of the beach-front properties. With rising sea levels and more intense storms likely because of a warming climate, parts of Granity will become uninhabitable.

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Sea Level Rise Will Reshape U.S. Population In All 50 States

Sea level rise could cause mass migrations that will affect not just the United States’ East Coast, but reshape communities deep in the heart of the country, according to new research published in the journal Nature Climate Change this week.

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When rising seas transform risk into certainty

Along parts of the East Coast, the entire system of insuring coastal property is beginning to break down.

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Warning from IDB expert: Trinidad is shrinking

Trinidad is shrinking and changing as it becomes increasingly vulnerable to storms, flooding and other natural disasters which cause coastal erosion and the retreating of the shoreline. In Columbus Bay, in West Trinidad, the coastline has retreated by 150 metres since 1994, losing 6.5 hectares of land.

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As China’s Mudflats Disappear, Shorebird Populations Rapidly Decline

Populations of some migratory shorebirds are declining by as much as 8 percent per year as mudflats in the Yellow Sea between China and South Korea disappear due to rising sea levels and infrastructure projects, according to new research.

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Miami’s fight against rising seas

In the battle against rising seas, Florida – which has more to lose than almost anywhere else in the world – is becoming ground zero.

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Recent / Sea Level Rise

Study finds knowledge gaps on protecting cultural sites from climate change

March 7th, 2017

Many cultural sites vulnerable to climate-related changes such as rising sea levels, coastal erosion and flooding from stronger storms, warn researchers.

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Some Virginia barrier islands are shrinking by the day: “You can just feel it”

March 3rd, 2017

Dozen islands are shrinking in Virginia’s barrier chain, which stretches for about 75 miles along the Eastern Shore.

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Coastal policy needs dose of reality; Op Ed by Orrin Pilkey

February 11th, 2017

Governor-elect Roy Cooper, with whatever powers he has left, has two particularly important tasks facing him on the environmental front. One is to reinvigorate and restore the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and to bring robust science to the fore. The second task is to bring our coastal management program into the 21st Century.

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Orrin H. Pilkey: Heading over the coastal cliff in North Carolina; Op Ed

February 6th, 2017

In the December 16 issue of Science, an insightful article about sea-level rise argues that there is a good possibility that the increase will exceed six feet by 2100.

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As Climate Change Accelerates, Floating Cities Look Like Less of a Pipe Dream

January 29th, 2017

A plan to respond to climate change by building a city of floating islands in the South Pacific is moving forward, with the government of French Polynesia agreeing to consider hosting the islands in a tropical lagoon. But the project has critics in French Polynesia and beyond.

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Changes in Rainfall, Temperature Expected to Transform Coastal Wetlands This Century

January 25th, 2017

Sea-level rise isn’t the only aspect of climate change expected to affect coastal wetlands: changes in rainfall and temperature are predicted to transform wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world within the century. These changes will take place regardless of sea-level rise.

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Sea level rise will disproportionately hit U.S. this century, NOAA warns

January 24th, 2017

Global sea level rise is unfolding at a stunning pace, and a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) says the U.S. will find itself directly in the crosshairs. Over the coming decades, some parts of the nation’s coastline will be hit harder than others.

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New regional sea level scenarios help communities prepare for risks

January 20th, 2017

Sea level rise is occurring worldwide, but not at the same rate everywhere. Differences will also likely continue in the future, so decision-makers need local information to assess their community’s vulnerability.

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Rising water is swallowing up the Louisiana coastline: the $50 billion battle plan

January 18th, 2017

The geography of the Louisiana coastline is quickly changing. A state-commissioned report predicts rising water could swallow more land along the Gulf of Mexico, if nothing is done to address damage caused by climate change and commercial activity. A new master plan of 2017 calls for an investment of more than $50 billion over 50 years.

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New Sea-Level Rise Projection Raises Threat to World’s Coasts

December 16th, 2016

About one-quarter of the world’s population lives in coastal areas that will be unlivable by the year 2100 because of rising sea levels, researchers say.

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