Why is sea level rising faster in some places along the US East Coast than others?
Sea level rise and beach erosion, North Carolina. Photograph courtesy of: © William Neal, Orrin Pilkey & Norma Longo.
Sea levels are rising globally from ocean warming and melting of land ice, but the seas aren’t rising at the same rate everywhere. Sea levels have risen significantly faster in some U.S. East Coast regions compared to others. A new study led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) reveals why.
Over the 20th century, sea level has risen about a foot and a half in coastal communities near Cape Hatteras in North Carolina and along the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. In contrast, New York City and Miami have experienced about a 1-foot rise over the same period, while sea levels farther north in Portland, Maine, rose only about half a foot.
The reason is a phenomenon called “post-glacial rebound,” explains Chris Piecuch, lead author of a study published on Dec. 20, 2018, in the journal Nature. Essentially, land areas in the Northern Hemisphere that once were covered by mammoth ice sheets during the last Ice Age—such as Canada and parts of the Northeast U.S.—were weighed down like a trampoline with a boulder on it. At the same time, land around the periphery of the ice sheets—along the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast, for example—rose up. As the ice sheets melted from their peak at the Last Glacial Maximum 26,500 years ago, the weighed-down areas gradually rebounded, while the peripheral lands started sinking, creating sort of a see-saw effect. Even though the ice sheets had disappeared by 7,000 years ago, the see-sawing of post-glacial rebound continues to this day…
Sinking Atlantic Coastline Meets Rapidly Rising Seas; Climate Central (04-15-2016)
Geological changes along the East Coast are causing land to sink along the seaboard. That’s exacerbating the flood-inducing effects of sea level rise, which has been occurring faster in the western Atlantic Ocean than elsewhere in recent years…
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