Seas Are Rising at Fastest Rate in Last 28 Centuries

Feb 23, 2016

Photo credit: Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

By Justin Gillis

The worsening of tidal flooding in American coastal communities is largely a consequence of greenhouse gases from human activity, and the problem will grow far worse in coming decades, scientists reported Monday.

Those emissions, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels, are causing the ocean to rise at the fastest rate since at least the founding of ancient Rome, the scientists said. They added that in the absence of human emissions, the ocean surface would be rising less rapidly and might even be falling.

The increasingly routine tidal flooding is making life miserable in places like Miami Beach; Charleston, S.C.; and Norfolk, Va., even on sunny days.

Though these types of floods often produce only a foot or two of standing saltwater, they are straining life in many towns by killing lawns and trees, blocking neighborhood streets and clogging storm drains, polluting supplies of freshwater and sometimes stranding entire island communities for hours by overtopping the roads that tie them to the mainland.

Such events are just an early harbinger of the coming damage, the new research suggests.

“I think we need a new way to think about most coastal flooding,” said Benjamin H. Strauss, the primary author of one of two related studies released on Monday. “It’s not the tide. It’s not the wind. It’s us. That’s true for most of the coastal floods we now experience.”

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4 comments on “Seas Are Rising at Fastest Rate in Last 28 Centuries

  • If nothing is done about carbon pollution and feed-back effects – eventually ALL the ice will melt.
    The maps here show the world as it is now, with only one difference: All the ice on land has melted and drained into the sea, raising it 216 feet and creating new shorelines for our continents and inland seas.

    There are more than five million cubic miles of ice on Earth, and some scientists say it would take more than 5,000 years to melt it all. If we continue adding carbon to the atmosphere, we’ll very likely create an ice-free planet, with an average temperature of perhaps 80 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the current 58.

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  • @OP – Seas Are Rising at Fastest Rate in Last 28 Centuries

    Perhaps there are lessons from history, when humans are trying to set new records for the rates of climate change!

    A dramatic shift in the Earth’s climate killed off marine reptiles that swam at the time of the dinosaurs, according to a new study.

    About 100 million years ago, the oceans warmed up, polar ice melted and sea levels rose to unprecedented heights.

    Scientists say the ichthyosaurs, or “fish lizards”, could not adapt to the new conditions, spelling their demise.

    The research is the latest twist in the mystery of how and why the predators disappeared.

    Evidence suggests their extinction about 100 million years ago was driven by intense climate change and their inability to adapt to the changing world.

    “Our results support a growing body of evidence revealing that rising sea levels and sea temperatures profoundly reorganised marine ecosystems about 100 million years ago,” said lead researcher Dr Valentin Fischer of the University of Liège, Belgium, and the University of Oxford, UK.

    “The ichthyosaurs were unable to adapt. They were evolving very slowly during the last 50 million years of their reign.

    “When the environment changed very rapidly they couldn’t keep up with this change.”

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