Under global warming, rising seas are expected to be a major component and destructive force. Current global coastlines are expected to be altered as land is inundated with water. The expected amount of sea level rise by the end of the century varies, however, all climate scientists agree the rise will be considerable.
Worldwide sea levels have already risen noticeably in a short period of time, at least in terms of Earth time. Since 1880, the seas have risen eight inches. This rise has been due to increasingly warm waters, warm water takes up more space than cold, and increased water from melting glaciers. In the current century, scientists have debated that anywhere between a two and seven foot sea level rise is possible. However, many experts believe the actual rise will likely be around the three to four foot mark.
Whether the actual sea level rise is on the high or low side of the range, all global coastlines will be in danger of losses. The United States’ east, west and Gulf of Mexico coastlines are no exception. Recent published reports by Climate Central, a non-profit group, in the journal Environmental Research Letters focuses on the impact of rising seas this century on the U.S. coast.
The study focuses on the impact rising seas will have on coastal communities, especially in terms of impacts from storms. The data revolved around fifty-five coastal locations incorporating a total of 285 coastal cities and towns. The most current U.S. Census data was used from 2010 to establish the impact on populations. In addition, high tide data was analyzed, including the potential changes to the high tide during storms, as was contributed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Co-author of the reports and head of Climate Central, Ben Strauss, stated: “Sea level rise is like an invisible tsunami, building force while we do almost nothing. We have a closing window of time to prevent the worst by preparing for higher seas.”
The report found that the area of South Florida is likely a total loss under the impact of sea rises later in the century. There is little that can be done to defend the area due to the general makeup of the region and the fact that any defenses on land would be circumnavigated by the water by seeping from the ground. While South Florida may be all but lost, other regions along the U.S. coast are also in danger of considerable changes.
The impact of global warming and sea rises is expected to triple the occurrence of once-a-century flooding in most of the locations analyzed in the research. Co-author of the study, Strauss, has indicated that the current once-a-century flooding occurring is actually comparable to a 200 to 300 year flood event in a situation not under the influence of global warming or sea rise.
In addition, by 2030, storm surges will combine with rising seas to be a brutal combination for coastal communities. The combination will bring water levels approximately four feet above the current high tide levels. More than fifty percent of the population in the 285 cities analyzed live below the four foot scenario, leaving them very susceptible to flooding.
The state with the greatest population in danger in such a situation is Florida, with 106 municipalities in danger. Louisiana 65, New Jersey 22, North Carolina 22, Maryland 14, New York 13 and Virginia with 10 rounds out the states with the greatest flooding danger.