'Make No Mistake: Sea Level Rise Is Upon Us'

NOAA releases report detailing the acceleration
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 15, 2022 5:50 PM CST
US Could See Century's Worth of Sea Rise by 2050
Part of the sidewalk near the Jefferson Memorial is covered in water during high tide at the Tidal Basin in Washington, Wednesday, April 3, 2019.   (AP Photo/Ashraf Khalil, File)

(Newser) – America's coastline will see sea levels rise in the next 30 years by as much as they did in the entire 20th century, with major Eastern cities hit regularly with costly floods even on sunny days, a government report warns. Brace yourself for some jarring numbers, which come compliments of a 111-page report issued Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and six other federal agencies. By 2050, seas lapping against the US shore will be 10 to 12 inches higher, with parts of Louisiana and Texas projected to see waters a foot and a half higher. "Make no mistake: Sea level rise is upon us," said Nicole LeBoeuf, director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

The projected increase is especially alarming given that in the 20th century, seas along the Atlantic coast rose at the fastest clip in 2,000 years, reports the AP. LeBoeuf warned that the cost will be high, pointing out that much of the American economy and 40% of the population are along the coast. However, the worst of the long-term sea level rise from the melting of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland probably won’t kick in until after 2100, said ocean service oceanographer William Sweet, the report’s lead author. Sea level rises more in some places than others because of sinking land, currents and water from ice melt. The US will get slightly more sea level rise than the global average.

The western Gulf of Mexico coast should get hit the most with the highest sea level rise—16 to 18 inches—by 2050, the report said. And that means more than 10 moderate property-damaging sunny-day floods and one "major" high tide flood event a year. The eastern Gulf of Mexico should expect up to 16 inches of sea level rise by 2050, the Southeast coast up to 14 inches, and the Northeast coast up to a foot. "This report is a wake-up call for the US, but it's a wake-up call with a silver lining," NOAA head Rick Spinrad said Tuesday, per CNN. "It provides us with information needed to act now to best position ourselves for the future."

(Read more sea level rise stories.)

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