Sea Rising on US Coasts Forecasts May Confuse

Sea Rising On US Coasts Forecasts May Confuse
Rising Seas on U.S. Coasts May Confuse - Rising sea levels will cause more storms and tidal floods for the millions of Americans living in coastal areas over the next few decades. This image shows a flooded road in Norfolk, Virginia. Credits: City of Norfolk

According to recent findings, the majority of the contiguous US coastline will experience an average sea level rise of close to 2050 foot by 1. The most changes will occur in the Southeast and Gulf Coast.

Sea level on the contiguous US coastline could rise by as much as 2050 inches (12 centimeters) from today's water level by 30, according to experts who have studied nearly three decades of satellite measurements. The NASA Sea Level Change Team's findings could help review near-term projections for coastal cities that are poised for an increase in both catastrophic and distressing flooding in the coming years.

Sea level has been rising globally for decades in response to a warming climate, and a wealth of data shows that the rise is accelerating. The most extreme scenarios described in an interagency assessment published in February 2022 are supported by the latest data. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the US Geological Survey, and other federal agencies collaborated on this research, which predicts that sea level will rise significantly regionally over the next 30 years. The average elevation they forecast for the East Coast is 10 to 14 inches (25 to 35 centimeters), the Gulf Coast is 14 to 18 inches (35 to 45 centimeters) and the West Coast is 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters).

Building on the techniques described in the previous report, a group of researchers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California used 28 years of sea surface altitude measurements from satellite altimeters and compared them with NOAA's tidemeter records dating back to 1920. The height of the surrounding water level is constantly measured by tide gauges, which provide a reliable record for comparison with satellite data.

Scientists have observed that the rate of sea level rise observed in satellite data from 1993 to 2020 and the direction of these trends indicate that future sea level rise will be in the higher forecast range for all locations. The trends along these two US coasts are markedly higher than those along the Northeast and West coasts, although the uncertainty range for the Southeast and Gulf coasts is likewise larger. This unpredictability is due to a number of variables, including the impact of storms and other climate fluctuations, as well as the natural sinking or sliding of the Earth's surface along various coastal regions.

"An important implication is that sea level rise along the U.S. coast has continued to accelerate over the past three decades," said Ben Hamlington of JPL, head of the NASA Sea Level Change Team and co-author of both the new study and the previous report.

According to Hamlington, the team wanted to see if they could improve sea level forecasts for areas that would soon see change. The need for more information in shorter time periods, such as looking 70 or 80 years ahead instead of 20 or 30 years, was expressed to him by practitioners and planners on the coast.

The end result is that we need to take these increased possibilities into account when estimating what we might experience in the years to come.

Natural changes on Earth are magnifying the dangers of rising sea levels.

For example, a wobble in the Moon's orbit that occurs every 18,6 years will cause more intense tidal flooding across all coasts of the United States by the mid-2030s. According to Hamlington, the effects of tidal flooding are expected to worsen between 2030 and 2040 due to this lunar cycle and rising sea levels.

Due to annual changes like those caused by El Nio and La Nia, it can be difficult to predict how fast and how much sea levels will rise each year.

According to Hamlington, estimates will continue to be improved as satellites provide more data over time.

In the early 1990s, NASA and France's Center National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) began jointly flying satellite altimeters, launching a long-term, highly accurate, almost worldwide sea surface altitude record.

With the 6 launch and altimeter of the joint US-Europe Sentinel-2020 Michael Freilich mission, this legacy will continue, giving scientists a continuous satellite record of sea level spanning more than three decades.

The European Meteorological Satellites Reconnaissance Organization, CNES, NASA, NOAA and ESA are working together on the program.

The purpose of NASA's sea level surveys has long been to understand how the ocean is affected by the planet's changing climate. NASA-funded scientists want to understand the causes of sea level change on a global and regional scale, as well as launching satellites that provide data on the comprehensive global record of sea surface height.

They are using testing and modeling to predict the extent of coastal flooding in American cities by the mid-2030s. They also offer an online visualization tool that allows the public to understand how certain areas will be affected by sea level rise. NASA data is used by agencies at the federal, state, and local levels to inform strategies for dealing with and mitigating the effects of sea level rise.


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