U.S. Atlantic Coast Already Hotspot of Sea Level Rise, Study Says


A 600-mile stretch of the U.S. East Coast is experiencing rates of sea level rise that are three to four times greater than the global average, according a new study.

In a new analysis, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found that sea levels from Boston, Mass. to Cape Hatteras, N.C. have risen 2 to 3.7 millimeters per year since 1990, compared with a global average of 0.6 to 1 millimeters per year.

According to the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, sea levels appear to be rising in this mid-Atlantic region because a major Atlantic current that carries tropical water to the north is slowing down; that warmth expands seawater, which can lead to higher sea levels.

“Many people mistakenly think that the rate of sea level rise is the same everywhere as glaciers and ice caps melt… [but]as demonstrated in this study, regional oceanographic contributions must be taken into account in planning for what happens to coastal property,” said Marcia McNutt, director of the USGS.

In a second study published in Nature Climate Change, scientists predict that even if global temperature increases are limited to 2 degrees Celsius, global-mean sea level could rise as much as 4 meters above current levels by 2300.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

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