Climate Change Could Bring Unprecedented Sea Rise to the US in 30 Years

A federal analysis predicts that sea levels would rise by as much as they did in the whole twentieth century along America’s coastline in the next 30 years, causing expensive floods even on sunny days in key Eastern towns.

According to a 111-page report released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and six other federal agencies, seas lapping against the US shore will be 10 to 12 inches (0.25 to 0.3 meters) higher by 2050, with parts of Louisiana and Texas expected to see waters a foot and a half (0.45 meters) higher.

“Make no mistake: Sea level rise is here to stay,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, head of the National Ocean Service at NOAA.

The expected increase is especially concerning given that sea levels along the Atlantic coast climbed at the quickest rate in 2,000 years throughout the twentieth century.

LeBoeuf cautioned that the price would be significant, pointing out that the coast is home to 40% of the American economy and 40% of the people.

However, according to ocean service oceanographer William Sweet, the report’s senior author, the worst of the long-term sea level rise from the melting of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland is unlikely to occur until beyond 2100.

Warmer water expands, and ice sheets and glaciers that melt provide more water to the world’s oceans.

The research “is the equivalent of NOAA raising a red flag” about accelerated sea-level rise, according to Andrea Dutton, a sea-level rise expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who wasn’t involved in the federal assessment. The current coastal flooding in the United States “will be brought to a whole new level in only a few decades.”

In an email, Dutton stated, “We can see this freight train coming from more than a mile out.” “The question is whether we keep allowing buildings to fall into the sea.”

Because to sinking land, currents, and water from glacial melt, sea level rises faster in certain locations than in others. The United States will see slightly more sea level rise than the rest of the world. The Gulf and East Coasts will see the highest increase, while the West Coast and Hawaii will be struck less than typical, according to Sweet.

Expect over 25 inches (0.63 meters) of sea level rise in Galveston, Texas, and just under 2 feet (0.6 meters) in St. Petersburg, Florida, between now and 2060, according to the analysis, but just 9 inches (0.23 meters) in Seattle and 14 inches (0.36 meters) in Los Angeles.

Higher waves do far more damage when storms like hurricanes reach the shore, but they’re also becoming an issue on bright days.

Cities like Miami Beach, Florida, Annapolis, Maryland, and Norfolk, Virginia, presently see a few minor “nuisance” floods during high tides each year, but by mid-century, they will be replaced by several “moderate” floods that inflict property damage, according to the experts.

“Areas that haven’t flooded before are going to start flooding,” Sweet said in an interview. “Many of our big East Coast urban regions are likely to be increasingly vulnerable.”

According to the analysis, the western Gulf of Mexico coast would be struck the worst by the biggest sea level increase — 16 to 18 inches (0.4 to 0.45 meters) — by 2050. That translates to more than ten moderate property-damaging sunny-day floods and one “major” high-tide flood occurrence every year.

By 2050, the eastern Gulf of Mexico could expect a sea level rise of 14 to 16 inches (0.35 to 0.4 meters) and three moderate sunny-day floods each year. The Southeast coast should experience a foot to 14 inches (0.3 to 0.35 meters) of sea level rise and four moderate sunny-day floods per year by mid-century, while the Northeast coast should experience 10 inches to a foot (0.25 to 0.3 meters) of sea level rise and six moderate sunny-day floods per year.

By mid-century, the Hawaiian Islands and the Southwestern coast could anticipate a 6 to 8 inch (0.15 to 0.2 meter) rise in sea level, whereas the Northwest coast will only witness a 4 to 6 inch rise (0.1 to 0.15 meters). More than ten small nuisance sunny-day floods will occur annually throughout the Pacific coast, but only approximately one major flood will occur year, with Hawaii receiving even less.

And that’s just until the year 2050. By the end of the century, the research predicts a 2 foot rise in sea level in the United States, with more in the East and less in the West.

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