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Sea level has been on the rise for centuries, and it is now accelerating at an alarming rate. In fact, sea level is currently rising three times faster than it did in the 20th century! 

This means that coastal communities and low-lying areas around the world are increasingly at risk of flooding. And as sea levels continue to rise, things are only going to get worse.

 So what can we do to prepare for this impending disaster? Let’s take a look at some sea level rising statistics to get a better understanding of what we’re up against.

Editor Choice: Sea Level Rising Statistics

  • In recent years, the sea rises 1.3 inches each year.(Scientific American)
  • Since the beginning of record-keeping in 1880, the global sea level has risen by about 8 inches.(Global Change)
  • Since 1993, the average sea level has risen at a rate of 0.12 to 0.14 inches per year.
  • Since 1992, sea levels have risen at a pace nearly double that recorded during the previous century.
  • Oceans can absorb 1000 times the amount of heat as the atmosphere
  • Flooding is 300%-900% more frequent than it was 50 years ago.
  • 1 in 6 of the American federally safeguarded species were at a stake of losing their habitats to the sea level rise.
  • From 1900 to 2012 the rate of sea level has risen substantially.
  • It is estimated that 0.3% to 9.3% of global goods and services will be lost yearly due to coastal flooding caused by rising sea levels.

1. In recent years, the sea rises 1.3 inches each year

Right now, many of the effects of climate change are still relatively small. Sea levels are rising at a rate of 1.3 inches every decade, but this doesn’t seem like much compared to other changes that are happening around us. 

But it soon will start to have a noticeable impact on our lives, however. If you live near the coast and don’t want to deal with rising sea levels, you will eventually have to move inland. 

It isn’t an option at this point; it’s something that you probably need to do in a couple of decades if you want to stay safe.

(Scientific American)

2. Since the beginning of record-keeping in 1880, the global sea level has risen by about 8 inches

That’s just the beginning, however. If we continue to emit greenhouse gases at the pace we are now, sea level could rise by more than 3 feet this century — and that would have devastating consequences for coastal cities all over the world. 

And if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise faster and faster, sea levels could end up rising by more than 8 feet by the end of this century. Obviously that is something that none of us want to see happen.

(Global Change)

3. Since 1993, the average sea level has risen at a rate of 0.12 to 0.14 inches per year

(EPA)

The oceans are currently rising at an average rate of 0.12 to 0.14 inches per year, but this amount will likely increase greatly in the future. 

As global warming continues to take its effect on the earth, sea levels will continue to rise much faster than they are today. 

Data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicates that the sea level may be up to 6 feet higher by the year 2100 if current estimates hold true.

4. Since 1992, sea levels have risen at a pace nearly double that recorded during the previous century.

(Climate)

The researchers, who compiled the findings from ten separate studies, say that the observed increase in sea-levels and rise in temperature are consistent with climate change patterns.

They also conclude that if sea levels continue to rise at their current rate, the world’s coastal areas face increased erosion of beaches and shorelines. Rising seas would cause extensive flooding near low-lying areas, as well as an increased risk of storm damage and damage to infrastructure.

5. Oceans can absorb 1000 times the amount of heat as the atmosphere

(Nasa)

A great portion of our planet is covered in water, and the oceans are certainly a large part of that. 

We often associate water with an abundance of life, and for good reason: 70% of the planet is covered in ocean, and it does a good job of supporting life on land. But there’s more to water than just its role as a sustainer of life. 

It also has great capacity to absorb heat. In fact, oceans can absorb more than 1000 times more heat than the atmosphere, making this very unique body of water act as a great buffer in regulating climate change.

6. Flooding is 300%-900% more frequent than it was 50 years ago.

(National Ocean Service)

According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, flooding is the most natural disaster in the world. 

It is 300% to 900% more likely to occur now than it was 50 or 100 years ago. This comes as a direct result of climate change, which has a powerful impact on weather patterns and rainfall. 

And with rising sea levels, floods are becoming more common around the world.

7. From 1900 to 2012 the rate of sea level has risen substantially

(Science)

The long-term trend for the rate of sea level rise is increasing. The rate of rise over the last century was notably higher than the 20th century average and a continuation of this trend (as indicated by the recent completion of statistical uncertainty reductions) would result in an increase in sea levels of 6.4 inches or more over the next 15 years, 13 to 24 inches or more within 50 years, and 39 to 66 inches or more from 1900 to 2100. Sea level rose substantially during the 20th century.

8. The sea levels are not only rising, however, the rate of the rise is also increasing 

(Treehugger) 

We cannot ignore the fact that the rate of sea level rise is increasing and if we do, we could be facing impending disaster in the near future that we may not be able to overcome. We must find a way to come together and reduce this rise in sea levels while changing our harmful ways of producing energy. We only have one planet, so let’s protect it.

9. Sea levels may rise to 4.3 Feet in the coming 80 years

(Treehugger)

If it is true that global sea levels will rise by over four feet in the coming 80 years, as experts predict, then home and commercial properties located on low-lying areas will likely be affected.

If you are a homeowner in a vulnerable house, then you may have even more to worry about. If a home or property owner in the future can anticipate this global rise in sea levels, hopefully he or she can make preparations for it. As you can see from the map above, global sea levels could rise by as much as 4.3 feet in the coming decades which could be devastating for some property owners.

10. Each Vertical Inch of the sea level rise shifts the ocean 50 to a hundred Inches Inland

(Climatekids)

The physical effect of sea level rise is to raise the elevation of the sea surface literally one vertical inch for every inch of sea level rise. 

This simple, logical fact is likely a welcome relief to many people who have been baffled by popular media reports suggesting that the sea level rise may be as high as three feet—-or even six feet—-in some places in the next 50 years.

11. Global Flood Damage may lose one trillion dollars per year if the large coastal cities don’t try to adapt

(Treehugger)

Rising sea levels, the melting of ice caps and other factors will lead to a total flood damage ranging from 1 trillion to 3 trillion dollars. Adaptation may be the solution to save this amount of money. 

Global Flood Damage can be reduced by 40% with low-cost adaptation in coastal cities, according to the leading climate economist Dr. Ven Polycarp and his team of researchers at ETH, Switzerland; Penn State University; and Boston University. An adaptation would better use the scarce resources and reduce the global warming effect caused by coastal cities.

12. In the U.S., 13 million people could be compelled to vacate their residences because of sea levels rising

(Sciencedaily)

With sea levels rising and major coastal cities potentially under threat if preventative measures are not taken, climate change could soon be a major issue on the minds of a wide variety of citizens. 

In fact, one recent study found that an estimated 13 million Americans could be forced to abandon their homes as a result of rising sea levels. With that being said, there will likely be many other consequences of this issue that will draw the attention of various communities.

13. One in 6 of the American federally safeguarded species were at a stake of losing their habitats to the sea level rise

(Biological Diversity)

Sea level rise is not a concept that can be denied anymore. It is happening at an accelerating pace and now, it poses a great threat to many of the species of marine animals.

14. It is estimated that 0.3 to 9.3 percent of global goods and services will be lost yearly due to coastal flooding caused by rising sea level

(Iopscience)

The economic impact of climate change is a hotly contested issue. What’s clear is that climate change is already happening, it isn’t going away, and it will cause a variety of problems worldwide. It’s up to us to figure out how we can mitigate the effects.  It is not too late to address climate change, but we should be mindful of the potential consequences if we do not act properly.

Final Thought

While many trends in the U.S. are currently pointing upward, one in particular has a dire outlook for the future: sea level is at an all-time high, and there is no end in sight. Rising sea levels have reasonably dire consequences; they contaminate drinking water, destroy buildings and infrastructures, and force the relocation of millions of people. 

While it may be too late to stop these rising trends altogether, hopefully the trend of rising awareness will help counteract these effects.

FAQs

What are the effects of sea level rise?

Answer: Sea level rise will have a number of impacts, both direct and indirect.

Direct effects will include increased flooding due to storm surges and tidal waves. Inundation of coastal areas will damage infrastructure, homes, and businesses. Salt water intrusion into freshwater supplies will make them less potable, and increase the cost of treating drinking water.

Indirect effects will be more far-reaching. Increased flooding will contaminate soil with salt and pollutants, making it unsuitable for agriculture or other uses. Low-lying areas will become marshland as the water table rises, reducing the amount of land available for development. Wetlands are important habitats for many species of plants and animals, so their loss could threaten biodiversity. Finally, sea level

How can cities be saved from rising sea levels?

By increasing the city’s elevation. Cities can be saved from rising sea levels by increasing their elevation. For example, raising the height of a city’s levees or creating new land through landfill projects.

Many low-lying coastal cities are already taking steps to increase their elevation. New York City, for example, is in the process of raising its coastline by 1.5 meters – a project that is expected to cost $20 billion and be completed by 2050. Other cities, such as Miami and London, are also making plans to raise their elevations in order to protect themselves from the effects of climate change.

What are the 3 causes of sea level rise?

The three primary causes of sea level rise are: 

1) Thermal expansion – As the ocean warms up, it expands. 

2) Melting of glaciers and ice sheets – As glaciers and ice sheets melt, they add water to the ocean. 

3) Dissolution of land-based ice – When water from rivers and melting snow flows into the ocean, it also contributes to sea level rise.

Sources

Global Change

EPA

Treehugger

Climate

Scientific American 

Nasa

Science 

Iopscience

Biological Diversity 

Sciencedaily

Climatekids

National Ocean Service

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