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Sea level will rise one foot along US coasts by 2050 | Smart News

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Several Gulf Coast cities, including Pensacola, Florida, were inundated by storm surge and heavy rain during Hurricane Sally in September 2020.
The Washington Post via Getty Images

Sea levels along US coasts will rise one foot by 2050, according to a new report led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Given how quickly the planet is warming due to human-induced climate change, scientists predict the water will rise two feet by the end of the century.

“The United States is expected to experience as much sea level rise over the next 30 years as we have seen over the past century,” NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said in a briefing. press conference announcing the findings. “What we are reporting is historic.”

The report presents an alarming scenario for the approx. 127 million Americans who live in coastal counties. Floods are expected to become more frequent and more damaging, and storm surges more intense. Sea level rise will also damage sensitive wetland ecosystems and increase erosion. By 2050, scientists expect moderate flooding to occur near coasts, on average, more than ten times more often than today.

“We are unfortunately heading towards a flood regime shift,” NOAA oceanographer William Sweet told Sarah Kaplan and Brady Dennis of the Washington Post. “There will be water in the streets unless action is taken in more and more communities.”

There are two main causes of global sea level rise: thermal expansion caused by warming waters and increased melting of land ice such as glaciers and ice caps.

The report’s work builds on a similar 2017 study of sea level rise, but offers more accurate estimates through improved computer modeling and information on ice melt, reports Henry Fountain for the New York Times. In their analysis, the scientists drew information from tide gauges and satellite images, and took into account the latest predictions from the The United Nations report on climate change. Their work revealed that sea levels along the coasts are expected to rise, on average, 10 to 12 inches over the next 30 years and up to two feet by 2100. The east and gulf coasts are expected to see the water rise fastest due to land subsidence and sediment compaction, according to the report. The study provides decade-by-decade projections of sea level rise for all US states and territories over the next 100 years.

Because of the amount of planet-warming greenhouse gases humans have already emitted from fossil fuels, future sea level rise is inevitable. The ocean has taken the brunt of carbon emissions, absorbing and storing more than 90 percent excess added heat linked to greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite the damage already done, the scientists behind the report say cutting greenhouse gas emissions could further reduce the severity of sea level rise projections for 2100, according to CNNIt’s Rachel Ramirez. But if emissions are not reduced, coastal communities could see a foot and a half to five feet higher at sea level by the end of the century, for a total of up to seven feet. analysis concluded.

“This report is a wake-up call for the United States, but it’s a wake-up call with a silver lining,” Spinrad told the press conference. “It provides us with the information we need to act now to best position ourselves for the future.”