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Sea Level Rising Faster Along U.S. Eastern Seaboard

The sea level is rising along America's eastern seaboard faster than in other parts of the world, according to a US Geological Survey team.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 6/27/2012, 5:00 PM

Flooding in Live Oak, Florida on June 26 / illustrative
Flooding in Live Oak, Florida on June 26 / illustrative
Reuters

The sea level of the Atlantic Ocean is rising along America's eastern seaboard faster than in other parts of the world, according to a US Geological Survey team.

The scientists led by oceanographer Peter Howd and USGS oceanographer Kara Doran studied tide-level data gathered from the area along a 600-mile (1,000 kilometer) stretch from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to Boston, Massachusetts, recorded in 1950 to the year 2009.

The findings of the study were published in an article entitled "Hotspot of accelerated sea-level rise on the Atlantic coast of North America" on June 24 in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The unexpected findings raised grave concerns: sea levels in the measured area – referred to as a “northeast hotspot (NEH)” by the scientists – rose by 2 to 3.8 milimeters per year, as compared to the global sea level, which rose by 0.6 to 1 millimeter per year over the same period.

Researchers noted in their findings that “storm surge, wave run-up and set-up will increase the vulnerability of coastal cities to flooding, and beaches and wetlands to deterioration.”

Although numerous possible causes were discussed, none were conclusively acknowledged as the source of the sea level rise. The team agreed, however, that unless other events intervene, the trend appears likely to continue and will impact on all cities along the coast.

In plain language, this will mean increased coastal flooding in low-lying areas, at a more frequent rate, gradually at first. By the year 2100, coastal flooding is likely to occur up to four times a year, rather than once every few years, as it does now, the scientists said.