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 globalwarmingart.com


Surfing in / Sea Level Rise

Disappearing Beaches: Modeling Shoreline Change in Southern California

Using a newly-developed computer model, scientists predict that with limited human intervention, 31 to 67 percent of Southern California beaches may become completely eroded (up to existing coastal infrastructure or sea-cliffs) by the year 2100 under scenarios of sea-level rise of one to two meters.

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Surfers will be the canaries in the coal mine on climate change

If the sea level continues to rise, as scientists warn, there will be a serious consequence for the sport: smaller and fewer waves. Consistently higher tides will change the way waves break on reefs and beaches. Without climate change intervention, those effects could become apparent in as a little as 50 years.

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Record-Low Ice Confirmed at North and South Poles

Sea ice at Earth’s poles is dwindling, and it reached record lows this month, scientists report.

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Atlantic City and Miami Beach: two takes on tackling the rising waters

Sea level rise is making floods more common and as the New Jersey resort braces for the next Sandy, the well-heeled Florida city is throwing money at the problem

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Calif. City Tries Shifting Sands Amid Disappearing Beaches

Today, with sea level rise and erosion threatening to eat away at the sandy expanses and damage city infrastructure, Santa Monica is testing a softer intervention. In a partnership with the nonprofit Bay Foundation, 3 acres of the beach’s north end have been seeded with native California dune plants.

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Increase in extreme sea levels could endanger European coastal communities

Massive coastal flooding in northern Europe that now occurs once every century could happen every year if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, according to a new study.

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Study finds knowledge gaps on protecting cultural sites from climate change

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”

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

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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Recent / Sea Level Rise

Close Look at a Crack on Larsen C

December 13th, 2016

The rift in Larsen C measures about 100 meters (300 feet) wide and cuts about half a kilometer (one-third of a mile) deep—completely through to the bottom of the ice shelf. While the rift is long and growing longer, it does not yet reach across the entire shelf. When that happens, Larsen C will shed an iceberg about the size of Delaware.

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Growing Pains: Arctic Sea Ice at Record Lows

December 6th, 2016

Every northern fall and winter, cooling ocean and air temperatures cause the floating cap of Arctic sea ice to grow from its annual minimum extent toward a maximum between February and April. So far in 2016, though, the Arctic Ocean and neighboring seas have been slow to freeze, setting both daily and monthly record lows.

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Polar ice the size of India has melted into the sea, scientists say

December 5th, 2016

As global temperatures continue to rise and break records, polar sea ice covering an area about the size of India has vanished, according to climate scientists. The trend of polar ice melt has been alarming researchers, with sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctica being measured at record lows for this time of year.

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Pacific coast marshes more resistant to rising seas than Atlantic

November 25th, 2016

Pacific marshes are generally at higher elevations than Atlantic marshes, and Pacific oceanographic circulation tends to push water away from the coast, reducing the effect of sea level rise.

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Ghost Forests: How Rising Seas Are Killing Southern U.S. Woodlands

November 17th, 2016

A steady increase in sea levels is pushing saltwater into U.S. wetlands, killing trees from Florida to as far north as New Jersey. But with sea level projected to rise by as much as six feet this century, the destruction of coastal forests is expected to become a worsening problem worldwide.

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Can Miami Beach Hold Its Ground Against King Tides?

November 4th, 2016

A city must decide whether to retreat or stand and fight when rising seas come crashing in…Located on a barrier island off the southeastern coast of Florida, Miami Beach is ground zero for sea-level rise. On November 14, we’ll see the largest supermoon rise since 1948.

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West Africa Is Being Swallowed by the Sea

October 22nd, 2016

Encroaching waters off the coast of Togo, Ghana, Mauritania, and others are destroying homes, schools, fish, and a way of life.

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Scientists find link between tropical storms, decline of river deltas

October 19th, 2016

A change in the patterns of tropical storms is threatening the future of the Mekong River delta in Vietnam, research shows, indicating a similar risk to other deltas around the world.

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Hurricane Sandy-Level Floods Likely to Hit NYC More Often

October 17th, 2016

Disastrous floods like those seen during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 may hit New York City 17 times more often in the next century, a new study finds.

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Hurricane Matthew’s Destructive Storm Surges Hint at New Normal

October 11th, 2016

The coastal U.S. is highly vulnerable to rising seas, which are expected to surge in the coming years. Will this storm be a wake-up call?

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