East Coast in Danger Due to Rising Sea Level

First Posted: Jun 25, 2012 07:26 AM EDT

The US Geological Survey has come up with the new study stating that, the seas along the East Coast from North Carolina to New England are going to rise at least three to four times faster than the global average.

The researchers blame the changing climate that plays a massive role in such a drastic change. The temperatures are predicted to shoot high causing the polar ice to melt which in turn results the oceans to swell in the coming decade.

The study claims that, this climate change multiplies the chances of floods in the most densely populated coastal areas of the world causing a threat to the wetland habitats.

Since about 1990, the sea level along the 1,000-kilometre (620-mile) "hotspot" zone has risen by two to 3.7 millimetres (0.08 to 0.15 inches) per year. In Norfolk, Virginia, where officials are scrambling to fight more frequent flooding, sea has jumped a total of 4.8 inches (12.19 centimeters), the research showed. For Philadelphia, levels went up 3.7 inches (9.4 centimeters), and in New York City, it was 2.8 inches (7.11 centimeters).

According to sources, "The global rise over the same period was between 0.6 and one millimetre per year. If global temperatures continue to rise, the sea level on this portion of the coast by 2100 could rise up to 30 centimetres over and above the one-metre global surge projected by scientists, it added." said the study by the US Geological Survey(USGS).

Climate change pushes up sea levels by melting ice sheets in Greenland and west Antarctica, and because warmer water expands. Despite having the computer models that have projected higher levels along parts of the East Coast because of variation in ocean currents from global warming, this is the first study to show that's already happened.

Asbury Sallenger, a Geological Survey oceanographer and lead author of the study in the journal Nature Climate Change said, "Cities in the hot spot, like Norfolk, New York, and Boston, already experience damaging floods during relatively low-intensity storms. Accelerated sea-level rise will add to the height that storm surges and breaking waves reach on the coast."

The researchers have made some estimation that by 2100 the sea levels globally could rise as much as 3.3 feet. The accelerated rate along the East Coast could add about 8 inches (20 centimeters) to 11 inches (28 centimeters) more.

On the West Coast, a National Research Council report released Friday projects an average 3-foot (nearly 1-meter) rise in sea level in California by the year 2100, and 2 feet (0.61 meters) in Oregon and Washington. The land mass north of the San Andreas Fault is expected to rise, offsetting the rising sea level in those two states.

Jeff Williams, a retired USGS expert who wasn't part of the study, and Stefan Rahmstorf, a professor of ocean physics at the Potsdam Institute in Germany, said the study does a good job of making the case for sea level rise acceleration.

This is a wake up for the U. S authorities to consider sea level rise in the planning decision.  The commission advices the city to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy efficiency and prepare for rising areas. 

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