A sea level rise is an increase in global mean sea level as a result
of an increase in the volume of water in the world’s oceans. Sea
level rise is usually attributed to global climate change by thermal
expansion of the water in the oceans and by melting of ice sheets and
glaciers on land. The melting of floating ice shelves and icebergs
at sea would raise sea levels only by about 4 cm
Sea level rise at specific locations may be more or less than the
global average. Local factors might include tectonic effects,
subsidence of the land, tides, currents, storms, etc. Sea level
rise is expected to continue for centuries. Because of long response
times for parts of the climate system, it has been estimated that we
are already committed to a sea-level rise within the next 2,000 years
of approximately 2.3 metres (7.5 ft) for each degree
temperature rise. The
International Panel on Climate Change
International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Summary for Policymakers, AR5, 2014, predicts that the global mean sea
level rise will continue during the 21st century, very likely at a
faster rate than observed from 1971 to 2010. Projected rates and
amounts vary. A January 2017
NOAA report suggests a range of GMSL rise
of 0.3 – 2.5 m possible during the 21st century.
Sea level rises can considerably influence human populations in
coastal and island regions and natural environments like marine
2 Past changes in sea level
3 Current state of the sea level change
4.1 20th century
4.2 21st century
4.3 After 2100
Antarctic ice sheet
Antarctic ice sheet (EAIS)
West Antarctic ice sheet
West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS)
Subsidence and effective sea level rise
8.1 Island nations
8.4 Extreme sea level rise events
Sea level measurement
9.2.3 United States
11 See also
14 Further reading
15 External links
Ocean heat content
Ocean heat content (OHC),
Sea level §
Sea level change, and Physical impacts of
Two main mechanisms contribute to observed sea level rise: (1)
thermal expansion: because of the increase in ocean heat content
(ocean water expands as it warms); and (2) the melting of major
stores of land ice like ice sheets and glaciers. Based on figures from
between 1993–2008 two thirds (68%) of recent sea level rise has been
attributed by melting ice, and roughly one third has come from thermal
On the timescale of centuries to millennia, the melting of ice sheets
could result in even higher sea level rise. Partial deglaciation of
Greenland ice sheet, and possibly the West Antarctic ice sheet,
could contribute 4 to 6 m (13 to 20 ft) or more to sea level
Past changes in sea level
Comparison of two sea level reconstructions during the last 500 Ma.
The scale of change during the last glacial/interglacial transition is
indicated with a black bar. Note that over most of geologic history,
long-term average sea level has been significantly higher than today.
Various factors affect the volume or mass of the ocean, leading to
long-term changes in eustatic sea level. The two primary influences
are temperature (because the density of water depends on temperature),
and the mass of water locked up on land and sea as fresh water in
rivers, lakes, glaciers and polar ice caps. Over much longer
geological timescales, changes in the shape of oceanic basins and in
land–sea distribution affect sea level. Since the Last Glacial
Maximum about 20,000 years ago, sea level has risen by more than 125
m, with rates varying from tenths of a mm/yr to 10+mm/year, as a
result of melting of major ice sheets.
During deglaciation between about 19,000 and 8,000 calendar years ago,
sea level rose at extremely high rates as the result of the rapid
melting of the British-Irish Sea, Fennoscandian, Laurentide,
Barents-Kara, Patagonian, Innuitian ice sheets and parts of the
Antarctic ice sheet. At the onset of deglaciation about 19,000
calendar years ago, a brief, at most 500-year long, glacio-eustatic
event may have contributed as much as 10 m to sea level with an
average rate of about 20 mm/yr. During the rest of the early
Holocene, the rate of sea level rise varied from a low of about
6.0–9.9 mm/yr to as high as 30–60 mm/yr during brief
periods of accelerated sea level rise.
Solid geological evidence, based largely upon analysis of deep cores
of coral reefs, exists only for 3 major periods of accelerated sea
level rise, called meltwater pulses, during the last deglaciation.
Meltwater pulse 1A
Meltwater pulse 1A between circa 14,600 and 14,300 calendar
Meltwater pulse 1B between circa 11,400 and 11,100 calendar
years ago; and
Meltwater pulse 1C between 8,200 and 7,600 calendar
Meltwater pulse 1A
Meltwater pulse 1A was a 13.5 m rise over about 290 years
centered at 14,200 calendar years ago and
Meltwater pulse 1B was a 7.5
m rise over about 160 years centered at 11,000 years calendar years
ago. In sharp contrast, the period between 14,300 and 11,100 calendar
years ago, which includes the
Younger Dryas interval, was an interval
of reduced sea level rise at about 6.0–9.9 mm/yr. Meltwater
pulse 1C was centered at 8,000 calendar years and produced a rise of
6.5 m in less than 140 years. Such rapid rates of sea
level rising during meltwater events clearly implicate major ice-loss
events related to ice sheet collapse. The primary source may have been
meltwater from the Antarctic ice sheet. Other studies suggest a
Northern Hemisphere source for the meltwater in the Laurentide ice
Recently, it has become widely accepted that late Holocene, 3,000
calendar years ago to present, sea level was nearly stable prior to an
acceleration of rate of rise that is variously dated between 1850 and
1900 AD. Late Holocene rates of sea level rise have been estimated
using evidence from archaeological sites and late Holocene tidal marsh
sediments, combined with tide gauge and satellite records and
geophysical modeling. For example, this research included studies of
Roman wells in
Caesarea and of Roman piscinae in Italy. These methods
in combination suggest a mean eustatic component of 0.07 mm/yr
for the last 2000 years.
Since 1880, the ocean began to rise briskly, climbing a total of
210 mm (8.3 in) through 2009 causing extensive erosion
worldwide and costing billions.
Sea level rose by 6 cm during the 19th century and 19 cm in
the 20th century. Evidence for this includes geological
observations, the longest instrumental records and the observed rate
of 20th century sea level rise. For example, geological observations
indicate that during the last 2,000 years, sea level change was small,
with an average rate of only 0.0–0.2 mm per year. This compares
to an average rate of 1.7 ± 0.5 mm per year for the 20th
century. Baart et al. (2012) show that it is important to account
for the effect of the 18.6-year lunar nodal cycle before acceleration
in sea level rise should be concluded. Based on tide gauge data,
the rate of global average sea level rise during the 20th century lies
in the range 0.8 to 3.3 mm/yr, with an average rate of
Current state of the sea level change
This NASA chart represents the satellite bi-monthly data on sea level
in mm with the seasonal variation adjusted for.
This graph shows the minimum projected change in global sea level rise
if atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations were to either
quadruple or double.  The projection is based on several
multi-century integrations of a GFDL global coupled ocean-atmosphere
model. These projections are the expected changes due to thermal
expansion of sea water alone, and do not include the effect of melted
continental ice sheets. With the effect of ice sheets included the
total rise will be larger, by an uncertain but possibly substantial
factor. Image credit:
See also: Projections and Future sea level
Hansen et al. 1981, published the study Climate impact of increasing
atmospheric carbon dioxide, and predicted that anthropogenic carbon
dioxide warming and its potential effects on climate in the 21st
century could cause a sea level rise of 5 to 6 m, from melting of the
West Antarctic ice-sheet alone.
The 2007 Fourth Assessment Report (
IPCC 4) projected century-end sea
levels using the
Special Report on Emissions Scenarios
Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES). SRES
developed emissions scenarios to project climate-change impacts.
The projections based on these scenarios are not predictions, but
reflect plausible estimates of future social and economic development
(e.g., economic growth, population level). The six SRES "marker"
scenarios projected sea level to rise by 18 to 59 centimetres (7.1 to
23.2 in). Their projections were for the time period
2090–99, with the increase in level relative to average sea level
over the 1980–99 period. This estimate did not include all of the
possible contributions of ice sheets.
Hansen (2007), assumed an ice sheet contribution of 1 cm for the
decade 2005–15, with a potential ten year doubling time for
sea-level rise, based on a nonlinear ice sheet response, which would
yield 5 m this century.
Research from 2008 observed rapid declines in ice-mass balance from
Greenland and Antarctica, and concluded that sea-level rise by
2100 is likely to be at least twice as large as that presented by IPCC
AR4, with an upper limit of about two meters.
Projections assessed by the
US National Research Council
US National Research Council (2010)
suggest possible sea level rise over the 21st century of between 56
and 200 cm (22 and 79 in). The NRC describes the IPCC
projections as "conservative".
In 2011, Rignot and others projected a rise of 32 centimetres
(13 in) by 2050. Their projection included increased
contributions from the Antarctic and
Greenland ice sheets. Use of two
completely different approaches reinforced the Rignot
Fifth Assessment Report (2013), The
IPCC found that recent
observations of global average sea level rise at a rate of 3.2 [2.8 to
3.6] mm per year is consistent with the sum of contributions from
observed thermal ocean expansion due to rising temperatures (1.1 [0.8
to 1.4] mm per year), glacier melt (0.76 [0.39 to 1.13] mm per year),
Greenland ice sheet
Greenland ice sheet melt (0.33 [0.25 to 0.41] mm per year), Antarctic
ice sheet melt (0.27 [0.16 to 0.38] mm per year), and changes to land
water storage (0.38 [0.26 to 0.49] mm per year). The report had also
concluded that if emissions continue to keep up with the worst case
IPCC scenarios, global average sea level could rise by nearly 1m by
2100 (0.52−0.98 m from a 1986-2005 baseline). If emissions follow
the lowest emissions scenario, then global average sea level is
projected to rise by between 0.28−0.6 m by 2100 (compared to a
National Climate Assessment (NCA), released May 6, 2014,
projected a sea level rise of 1 to 4 feet (30–120 cm) by 2100.
Decision makers who are particularly susceptible to risk may wish to
use a wider range of scenarios from 8 inches to 6.6 feet
(20–200 cm) by 2100.
A 2015 study by sea level rise experts concluded that based on MIS 5e
data, sea level rise could accelerate in the coming decades, with a
doubling time of 10, 20 or 40 years. The study abstract explains:
"We argue that ice sheets in contact with the ocean are vulnerable to
non-linear disintegration in response to ocean warming, and we posit
that ice sheet mass loss can be approximated by a doubling time up to
sea level rise of at least several meters. Doubling times of 10, 20 or
40 years yield sea level rise of several meters in 50, 100 or 200
years. Paleoclimate data reveal that subsurface ocean warming causes
ice shelf melt and ice sheet discharge."
"Our climate model exposes amplifying feedbacks in the Southern Ocean
that slow Antarctic bottom water formation and increase ocean
temperature near ice shelf grounding lines, while cooling the surface
ocean and increasing sea ice cover and water column stability. Ocean
surface cooling, in the North Atlantic as well as the Southern Ocean,
increases tropospheric horizontal temperature gradients, eddy kinetic
energy and baroclinicity, which drive more powerful storms."
However, Greg Holland from the National Center for Atmospheric
Research, who reviewed the James (Jim) Hansen study, noted “There is
no doubt that the sea level rise, within the IPCC, is a very
conservative number, so the truth lies somewhere between
One 2017 study's scenario, assuming high fossil fuel use for
combustion and strong economic growth during this century, projects
sea level rise of up to 1.32 metres (4.3 ft) on average — and
an extreme scenario with as much as 1.89 metres (6.2 ft), by
2100. This could mean rapid sea level rise of up to 19 millimeters per
year by the end of the century. The study also concluded that the
Paris climate agreement emissions scenario, if met, would result in a
median 0.52 metres (1.7 ft) of sea level rise by 2100.
Further information: Long-term effects of global warming
There is a widespread consensus that substantial long-term sea-level
rise will continue for centuries to come even if the temperature
IPCC AR4 estimated that at least a partial
deglaciation of the
Greenland ice sheet, and possibly the West
Antarctic ice sheet, would occur given a global average temperature
increase of 1–4 °C (relative to temperatures over the years
1990–2000). This estimate was given about a 50% chance of being
correct. The estimated timescale was centuries to millennia, and
would contribute 4 to 6 metres (13 to 20 ft) or more to sea
levels over this period.
Rising sea levels will cause flooding and will have the ability to
wipe out entire cities. In a study published by Nature, the entire
Delaware could be completely wiped out by 2500.
See also: Ice-sheet dynamics, Ice-sheet model, and Climate model
There is the possibility of a rapid change in glaciers, ice sheets,
and hence sea level. Predictions of such a change are highly
uncertain due to insufficient scientific understanding. Modeling of
the processes associated with a rapid ice-sheet and glacier change
could potentially increase future projections of sea-level rise.
Hansen (2007), concluded that paleoclimate ice sheet models generally
do not include physics of ice streams, effects of surface melt
descending through crevasses and lubricating basal flow, or realistic
interactions with the ocean. The calibration of projected modelling
for future sea-level rise is generally done with a linear projection
of future sea level. It thus does not include potential nonlinear
collapse of an ice sheet.
Close-up of Ross Ice Shelf, the largest ice shelf of Antarctica, about
the size of France and up to several hundred metres thick.
See also: Ice shelf
Each year about 8 mm of precipitation (liquid equivalent) falls
on the ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, mostly as snow, which
accumulates and over time forms glacial ice. Much of this
precipitation began as water vapor evaporated from the ocean surface.
To a first approximation, the same amount of water appeared to return
to the ocean in icebergs and from ice melting at the edges. Scientists
previously had estimated which is greater, ice going in or coming out,
called the mass balance, important because a nonzero balance causes
changes in global sea level. High-precision gravimetry from satellites
Greenland was losing more than 200 billion tons of ice
per year, in accord with loss estimates from ground measurement.
The rate of ice loss was accelerating, having grown from 137
billion tons in 2002–2003.
The total global ice mass lost from Greenland, Antarctica and Earth's
glaciers and ice caps during 2003–2010 was about 4300 billion tons
(1,000 cubic miles), adding about 12 mm (0.5 in) to global
sea level, enough ice to cover an area comparable to the United States
50 cm (1.5 ft) deep.
The melting of small glaciers on the margins of
Greenland and the
Antarctic Peninsula would increase sea level around 0.5 meter. At the
extreme potential, according to the Third Assessment Report of the
International Panel on Climate Change, the ice contained within the
Greenland ice sheet
Greenland ice sheet entirely melted increases sea level by 7.2 meters
(24 feet). The ice contained within the
Antarctic ice sheet
Antarctic ice sheet entirely
melted would produce 61.1 meters (200 feet) of sea-level change, both
totaling a sea-level rise of 68.3 meters (224 feet).
It is estimated that fully melting Antarctica would contribute over 60
metres of sea level rise, and
Greenland would contribute more than 7
metres. Small glaciers and ice caps on the margins of
Antarctic Peninsula might contribute about 0.5 metres. The latter
figure is much smaller than for Antarctica or Greenland, but it could
occur relatively quickly (within the coming century), whereas full
Greenland would be slow (perhaps 1,500 years to fully
deglaciate at the fastest likely rate) and Antarctica even slower.
However, this calculation does not account for the possibility of
accelerate melting as meltwater flows under and lubricates the larger
ice sheets, which would begin to move much more rapidly towards the
Eric Rignot and R.H. Thomas found that the West Antarctic and
Greenland ice sheets were losing mass, while the East Antarctic ice
sheet was close to in balance (they could not determine the sign of
the mass balance for The East Antarctic ice sheet). Kwok and
Comiso (J. Climate, v15, 487–501, 2002) also discovered that
temperature and pressure anomalies around West Antarctica and on the
other side of the
Antarctic Peninsula correlate with recent Southern
In 2005 it was reported that during 1992–2003, East Antarctica
thickened at an average rate of about 18 mm/yr while West
Antarctica showed an overall thinning of 9 mm/yr. associated with
increased precipitation. A gain of this magnitude is enough to slow
sea-level rise by 0.12 ± 0.02 mm/yr.
Processes around an Antarctic ice shelf
See also: Antarctica § Ice mass and global sea level
The large volume of ice on the Antarctic continent stores around 70%
of the world's fresh water. This ice sheet is constantly gaining
ice from snowfall and losing ice through outflow to the sea.
Sheperd et al. 2012, found that different satellite methods were in
good agreement and combining methods leads to more certainty with East
Antarctica, West Antarctica, and the
Antarctic Peninsula changing in
mass by +14 ± 43, –65 ± 26, and –20 ± 14 gigatonnes per
Antarctic ice sheet
Antarctic ice sheet (EAIS)
Main article: East Antarctic Ice Sheet
East Antarctica is a cold region with a ground-base above sea level
and occupies most of the continent. This area is dominated by small
accumulations of snowfall which becomes ice and thus eventually
seaward glacial flows. The mass balance of the East Antarctic Ice
Sheet as a whole over the period 1980-2004 is thought to be slightly
positive (lowering sea level) or near to balance, with a large degree
of uncertainty. However, increased ice outflow has been
suggested in some regions.
West Antarctic ice sheet
West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS)
Main article: West Antarctic Ice Sheet
West Antarctica is currently experiencing a net outflow of glacial
ice, which will increase global sea level over time. A review of the
scientific studies looking at data from 1992 to 2006 suggested a net
loss of around 50 gigatons of ice per year was a reasonable estimate
(around 0.14 mm of yearly sea-level rise), although
significant acceleration of outflow glaciers in the Amundsen Sea
Embayment could have more than doubled this figure for the year
Thomas et al. found evidence of an accelerated contribution to sea
level rise from West Antarctica. The data showed that the Amundsen
Sea sector of the
West Antarctic Ice Sheet
West Antarctic Ice Sheet was discharging 250 cubic
kilometres of ice every year, which was 60% more than precipitation
accumulation in the catchment areas. This alone was sufficient to
raise sea level at 0.24 mm/yr. Further, thinning rates for the
glaciers studied in 2002–03 had increased over the values measured
in the early 1990s. The bedrock underlying the glaciers was found to
be hundreds of metres deeper than previously known, indicating exit
routes for ice from further inland in the Byrd Subpolar Basin. Thus
West Antarctic ice sheet
West Antarctic ice sheet may not be as stable as has been
A 2009 study found that the rapid collapse of West Antarctic Ice Sheet
would raise sea level by 3.3 metres (11 ft).
Retreat of glaciers since 1850
Retreat of glaciers since 1850 and
Glacier mass balance
Observational and modelling studies of mass loss from glaciers and ice
caps indicate a contribution to sea-level rise of
0.2–0.4 mm/yr, averaged over the 20th century. The results from
Dyurgerov show a sharp increase in the contribution of mountain and
subpolar glaciers to sea-level rise since 1996 (0.5 mm/yr) to
1998 (2 mm/yr) with an average of about 0.35 mm/yr since
1960. Of interest also is Arendt et al., who estimate the
contribution of Alaskan glaciers of 0.14±0.04 mm/yr between the
mid-1950s to the mid-1990s, increasing to 0.27 mm/yr in the
middle and late 1990s.
Greenland 2007 melt anomaly, measured as the difference between the
number of days on which melting occurred in 2007 compared to the
average annual melting days from 1988–2006
Greenland ice sheet
In 2004 Rignot et al. estimated a contribution of 0.04 ±
0.01 mm/yr to sea level rise from South East Greenland. In
the same year, Krabill et al. estimate a net contribution from
Greenland to be at least 0.13 mm/yr in the 1990s. Joughin et
al. have measured a doubling of the speed of
Jakobshavn Isbræ between
1997 and 2003. This is Greenland's largest outlet glacier; it
drains 6.5% of the ice sheet, and is thought to be responsible for
increasing the rate of sea-level rise by about 0.06 millimetres per
year, or roughly 4% of the 20th-century rate of sea-level
increase. In 2004, Rignot et al. estimated a contribution of
0.04±0.01 mm/yr to sea-level rise from southeast Greenland.
Rignot and Kanagaratnam produced a comprehensive study and map of the
outlet glaciers and basins of Greenland. They found widespread
glacial acceleration below 66 N in 1996 which spread to 70 N by 2005;
and that the ice sheet loss rate in that decade increased from 90 to
200 cubic km/yr; this corresponds to an extra 0.25–0.55 mm/yr
of sea level rise.
In July 2005 it was reported that the Kangerlussuaq Glacier, on
Greenland's east coast, was moving towards the sea three times faster
than a decade earlier. Kangerdlugssuaq is around 1,000 m thick,
7.2 km (4.5 miles) wide, and drains about 4% of the ice from the
Greenland ice sheet. Measurements of Kangerdlugssuaq in 1988 and
1996 showed it moving at between 5 and 6 km/yr (3.1–3.7
miles/yr), while in 2005 that speed had increased to 14 km/yr
According to the 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, climate models
project that local warming in
Greenland will exceed 3 °C during
this century. Also, ice-sheet models project that such a warming would
initiate the long-term melting of the ice sheet, leading to a complete
melting of the
Greenland ice sheet
Greenland ice sheet over several millennia, resulting
in a global sea level rise of about seven metres.
Subsidence and effective sea level rise
Many ports, urban conglomerations, and agricultural regions are built
on river deltas, where subsidence of land contributes to a
substantially increased effective sea level rise. This is caused by
both unsustainable extraction of groundwater (in some place also by
extraction of oil and gas), and by levees and other flood management
practices that prevent accumulation of sediments from compensating for
the natural settling of deltaic soils. In many deltas this results
in subsidence ranging from several millimeters per year up to possibly
25 centimeters per year in parts of the Ciliwung delta (Jakarta).
Total anthropogenic-caused subsidence in the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta
(Netherlands) is estimated at 3 to 4 meters, over 3 meters in urban
areas of the
Mississippi River Delta
Mississippi River Delta (New Orleans), and over nine
meters in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
Map of major cities of the world most vulnerable to sea level rise
Schematic animation of sea level rise in Taipei,
surrounding regions, in meters
Schematic animation of sea level rise in
Taiwan and surrounding
regions, in meters
Further information: Regional effects of global warming
IPCC TAR WGII report (Impacts, Adaptation Vulnerability) notes
that current and future climate change would be expected to have a
number of impacts, particularly on coastal systems. Such impacts
may include increased coastal erosion, higher storm-surge flooding,
inhibition of primary production processes, more extensive coastal
inundation, changes in surface water quality and groundwater
characteristics, increased loss of property and coastal habitats,
increased flood risk and potential loss of life, loss of non-monetary
cultural resources and values, impacts on agriculture and aquaculture
through decline in soil and water quality, and loss of tourism,
recreation, and transportation functions.
There is an implication that many of these impacts will be
detrimental—especially for the three-quarters of the world's poor
who depend on agriculture systems. The report does, however, note
that owing to the great diversity of coastal environments; regional
and local differences in projected relative sea level and climate
changes; and differences in the resilience and adaptive capacity of
ecosystems, sectors, and countries, the impacts will be highly
variable in time and space.
IPCC report of 2007 estimated that accelerated melting of the
Himalayan ice caps and the resulting rise in sea levels would likely
increase the severity of flooding in the short term during the rainy
season and greatly magnify the impact of tidal storm surges during the
cyclone season. A sea-level rise of just 400 mm in the Bay of
Bengal would put 11 percent of the Bangladesh's coastal land
underwater, creating 7–10 million climate refugees.
Sea level rise could also displace many shore-based populations: for
example it is estimated that a sea level rise of just 200 mm
could make 740,000 people in Nigeria homeless.
Future sea-level rise, like the recent rise, is not expected to be
globally uniform. Some regions show a sea-level rise substantially
more than the global average (in many cases of more than twice the
average), and others a sea level fall. However, models disagree as
to the likely pattern of sea level change.
Alliance of Small Island States
Alliance of Small Island States and Small Island
IPCC assessments suggest that deltas and small island states are
particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise caused by both thermal
expansion and increased ocean water.
Sea level changes have not yet
been conclusively proven to have directly resulted in environmental,
humanitarian, or economic losses to small island states, but the IPCC
and other bodies have found this a serious risk scenario in coming
Maldives, Tuvalu, and other low-lying countries are among the areas
that are at the highest level of risk. The UN's environmental panel
has warned that, at current rates, sea level would be high enough to
Maldives uninhabitable by 2100.
Many media reports have focused on the island nations of the Pacific,
notably the Polynesian islands of Tuvalu, which based on more severe
flooding events in recent years, were thought to be "sinking" due to
sea level rise. A scientific review in 2000 reported that based on
University of Hawaii
University of Hawaii gauge data,
Tuvalu had experienced a negligible
increase in sea level of 0.07 mm a year over the past two
decades, and that the
El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) had been a
larger factor in Tuvalu's higher tides in recent years. A
subsequent study by John Hunter from the University of Tasmania,
however, adjusted for ENSO effects and the movement of the gauge
(which was thought to be sinking). Hunter concluded that
been experiencing sea-level rise of about 1.2 mm per
year. The recent more frequent flooding in
Tuvalu may also be
due to an erosional loss of land during and following the actions of
1997 cyclones Gavin, Hina, and Keli.
A study conducted on the Jaluit Atoll, Marshall Islands demonstrated
that significant geomorphologic events such as storms (i.e. Typhoon
Ophelia in 1958) tend to have larger impacts on reef islands than the
smaller-scale effects of sea level rise. These effects include the
immediate erosion and subsequent regrowth process that may vary in
length from decades to centuries, even resulting in land areas larger
than pre-storm values. With an expected rise in the frequency and
intensity of storms, they may become more significant in determining
island shape and size than sea level rise.
In 2016 it was reported that five of the
Solomon Islands had
disappeared due to the combined effects of sea level rise and stronger
trade winds that were pushing water into the Western Pacific.
Besides the issues that flooding brings, such as soil salinisation,
the island states themselves would also become dissolved over time, as
the islands become uninhabitable or completely submerged by the sea.
Once this happens, all rights on the surrounding area (sea) are
removed. This area can be huge as rights extend to a radius of 224
nautical miles (414 km) around the entire island state. Any
resources, such as fossil oil, minerals and metals, within this area
can be freely dug up by anyone and sold without needing to pay any
commission to the (now dissolved) island state.
Options that have been proposed to assist island nations to adapt to
rising sea level include abandoning islands, building dikes, and
Further information: C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
A study in the April, 2007 issue of Environment and Urbanization
reports that 634 million people live in coastal areas within 30 feet
(9.1 m) of sea level. The study also reported that about two
thirds of the world's cities with over five million people are located
in these low-lying coastal areas.
Future sea level
Future sea level rise could lead to
potentially catastrophic difficulties for shore-based communities in
the next centuries: for example, many major cities such as Venice,
London, New Orleans, and
New York City
New York City already need storm-surge
defenses, and will need more if the sea level rises; they also face
issues such as subsidence. However, modest increases in sea
level are likely to be offset when cities adapt by constructing sea
walls or through relocating.
Swiss Re estimates an economic loss for southeast
Florida in 2030, of $33 billion from climate-related damages.
Miami has been listed as "the number-one most vulnerable city
worldwide" in terms of potential damage to property from storm-related
flooding and sea-level rise.
Coastal and Polar habitats are facing drastic changes as consequence
of rising sea levels. Loss of ice in the Arctic may force local
species to migrate in search of a new home. If seawater continues to
approach inland, problems related to contaminated soils and flooded
wetlands may occur. Also, fish, birds, and coastal plants could lose
parts of their habitat. In 2016 it was reported that the Bramble
Cay melomys, which lived on a
Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef island, had probably
become extinct because of sea level rises.
Extreme sea level rise events
Atlantic meridional overturning circulation
Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), has
been tied to extreme regional sea level rise (1-in-850 year event).
Between 2009–2010, coastal sea levels north of New York City
increased by 128 mm within two years. This jump is unprecedented
in the tide gauge records, which have collected data for several
Sea level measurement
Jason-1 continued the sea surface measurements begun by
TOPEX/Poseidon. It was followed by the
Ocean Surface Topography
Mission on Jason-2, and by Jason-3
Sea level trends from satellite altimetry
Since the 1992 launch of TOPEX/Poseidon, altimetric satellites have
been recording the change in sea level. Current rates of sea
level rise from satellite altimetry have been estimated in the range
of 2.9–3.4 ± 0.4–0.6 mm per year for
1993–2010. This exceeds those from
tide gauges. It is unclear whether this represents an accelerated
increase over the last decades, variability due to the sparse sampling
of the tide gauges, true differences between satellites and tide
gauges, or problems with satellite calibration. In 2015, a small
calibration errors of the first altimetric satellite –
Topex/Poseidon - was identified. It had caused a slight overestimation
of the 1992-2005 sea levels, which masked the ongoing sea level rise
The longest running sea-level measurements, NAP or
Datum established in 1675, are recorded in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
About 25 percent of the Netherlands lies beneath sea level, while more
than 50 percent of this nation's area would be inundated by temporary
floods if it did not have an extensive levee system, see Flood control
in the Netherlands.
In Australia, data collected by the Commonwealth Scientific and
Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) show the current global mean
sea level trend to be 3.2 mm/yr., a doubling of the rate of
the total increase of about 210mm that was measured from 1880 to 2009,
which reflected an average annual rise over the entire 129-year period
of about 1.6 mm/year.
Australian record collection has a long time horizon, including
measurements by an amateur meteorologist beginning in 1837 and
measurements taken from a sea-level benchmark struck on a small cliff
on the Isle of the Dead near the Port Arthur convict settlement
on 1 July 1841. These records, when compared with data recorded by
modern tide gauges, reinforce the recent comparisons of the historic
sea level rise of about 1.6 mm/year, with the sharp acceleration
in recent decades.
Continuing extensive sea level data collection by Australia's (CSIRO)
is summarized in its finding of mean sea level trend to be
3.2 mm/yr. As of 2003 the National Tidal Centre of the Bureau of
Meteorology managed 32 tide gauges covering the entire Australian
coastline, with some measurements available starting in 1880.
US sea-level trends 1900–2003
Tide gauges in the United States reveal considerable variation because
some land areas are rising and some are sinking. For example, over the
past 100 years, the rate of sea level rise varied from an increase of
about 0.36 inches (9.1 mm) per year along the Louisiana Coast
(due to land sinking), to a drop of a few inches per decade in parts
of Alaska (due to post-glacial rebound). The rate of sea level rise
increased during the 1993–2003 period compared with the longer-term
average (1961–2003), although it is unclear whether the faster rate
reflected a short-term variation or an increase in the long-term
One study showed no acceleration in sea level rise in US tide gauge
records during the 20th century. However, another study found
that the rate of rise for the US Atlantic coast during the 20th
century was far higher than during the previous two thousand
Further information: Adaptation to global warming
In 2008, the Dutch Delta Commission (Deltacommissie), advised in a
report that the Netherlands would need a massive new building program
to strengthen the country's water defenses against the anticipated
effects of global warming for the next 190 years. The Dutch plans
included drawing up worst-case plans for evacuations. The plan
included more than €100 billion (US$144 bn), in new spending through
the year 2100 to take measures, such as broadening coastal dunes and
strengthening sea and river dikes. The commission said the country
must plan for a rise in the North Sea up to 1.3 metres (4 ft
3 in) by 2100, rather than the previously projected 0.80 metres
(2 ft 7 in), and plan for a 2–4 metre (6.5–13 feet) rise
New York City
New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC), is an effort to
New York City
New York City area for climate change.
Miami Beach is spending $500 million in the next years to address
sea-level rise. Actions include a pump drainage system, and to raise
roadways and sidewalks.
Global warming portal
Renewable energy portal
Sustainable development portal
Coastal sediment supply
Cold blob (North Atlantic)
Effects of global warming
Effects of global warming on oceans
Effects of climate change on island nations
Standard sea level
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if sea-level rise were to remain in the conservative range projected
IPCC (0.6–1.9 feet [0.18–0.59 m])—not considering
potentially much larger increases due to rapid decay of the Greenland
or West Antarctic ice sheets—tens of millions of people worldwide
would become vulnerable to flooding due to sea-level rise over the
next 50 years (Nicholls, 2004; Nicholls and Tol, 2006). This is
especially true in densely populated, low-lying areas with limited
ability to erect or establish protective measures. In the United
States, the high end of the conservative
IPCC estimate would result in
the loss of a large portion of the nation's remaining coastal
wetlands. The impact on the east and Gulf coasts of the United States
of 3.3 feet (1 m) of sea-level rise, which is well within the range of
more recent projections for the 21st century (e.g., Pfeffer et al.,
2008; Vermeer and Rahmstorf, 2009), is shown in pink in Figure 7.7.
Also shown, in red, is the effect of 19.8 feet (6 m) of sea-level
rise, which could occur over the next several centuries if warming
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of temporal modulations in ice sheet surface mass balance. Here, we
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comparison of two independent techniques over the past eight years:
one differencing perimeter loss from net accumulation, and one using a
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Providing new homes for climate exiles Sujatha Byravan and Sudhir
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and Atmospheric Administration.
Earth Under Water – Worldwide FloodingSea Level Rise (SLR) on
Six degrees could change the world on
YouTube – National Geographic
film based on the 2007 book Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet
HD Earth Under Water – Full Documentary on
YouTube – Discovery
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