Sea Levels Rising at Fastest Rate in 3,000 Years: New NOAA Report Warns of ‘Flood Regime Shift’

Flooding on Smith Island, Maryland
Flooding on Smith Island, Maryland on Nov. 23, 2015. NOAA / Gary J. Kohn

U.S. coasts will be inundated by one foot of sea level rise over the next 28 years, according to a report released Tuesday by NOAA and other federal agencies.

Sea levels, driven higher by climate change primarily caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, are rising faster than at any point in the last 3,000 years and will rise as much in the next three decades as they have over the past century.

Higher sea levels means a further, dramatic increase in high tide flooding, storm and wastewater systems unable to cope with the influx of seawater, crop fields sterilized by saltwater inundation, and septic systems overwhelmed by higher water tables — not to mention increased vulnerability to hurricanes and tropical storms.

The predicted sea level rise will make some areas effectively uninhabitable with about 140,000 homes at risk of twice-a-month flooding. “We can see this freight train coming from more than a mile away,” Andrea Dutton, a University of Wisconsin-Madison geoscientist, told the AP. “The question is whether we continue to let houses slide into the ocean.”

As reported by The Washington Post:

Looking ahead to the end of the century, the amount of planet-warming pollution people release into the atmosphere could mean the difference between sea levels stabilizing at about two feet above the historical average or surging by almost eight feet, NOAA reports.

“This report is a wake-up call for the U.S., but it’s a wake-up call with a silver lining,” NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad told journalists in a teleconference Tuesday. “It provides us with information needed to act now to best position ourselves for the future.”

For a deeper dive:

APThe Washington PostE&E NewsAxiosNPRReutersCNNPOLITICOThe HillThe Wall Street Journal; Sea level rise explainer: The Conversation; Climate Signals background: Sea level rise

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