Sea Level Rise Is Speeding up Along Most of the U.S. Coast
Sea level rise in most of the U.S. is speeding up.
That's the conclusion of William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) latest annual sea level "report card" that measures tide gauges at 32 locations along the U.S. coast. At 25 of the 32 sites, sea level rise accelerated at higher rates in 2019 than it did in 2018.
"Acceleration can be a game changer in terms of impacts and planning, so we really need to pay heed to these patterns," VIMS emeritus professor John Boon said in a university press release.
Annual #SeaLevel report cards: water levels rose at higher rate in 2019 than 2018 at 25 of 32 stations along… https://t.co/dZcrFXAQiB— Virginia Institute of Marine Science (@Virginia Institute of Marine Science)1580414451.0
The VIMS researchers said their findings suggest that U.S. coastal cities may need to start planning for that worst-case scenario.
"We have increasing evidence from the tide-gauge records that these higher sea-level curves need to be seriously considered in resilience-planning efforts," VIMS marine scientist Molly Mitchell said in the press release.
The researchers said that sea level rise began to accelerate in 2013 and 2014 due to the movement of the ocean and the melting of ice sheets.
So far, sea levels are rising faster on the East and Gulf Coasts than on the West Coast. In the case of the Gulf Coast, fossil fuel extraction is attacking the land on two fronts. Emissions contribute to the climate crisis, which raises sea levels, and the pumping of oil causes land to sink. In 2019, the three locations that saw the highest rates of sea level rise were all on the Gulf: Grand Isle, Louisiana at 7.93 millimeters per year (mm/yr), Rockport, Texas at 6.95 mm/yr and Galveston, Texas at 6.41 mm/yr.
Sea level rise rates did also accelerate in seven of eight West Coast stations measured, with the exception of Alaska.
"Although sea level has been rising very slowly along the West Coast," Mitchell said, "models have been predicting that it will start to rise faster. The report cards from the past three years support this idea."
This change would be due to shifting wind patterns caused by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.
In Alaska, meanwhile, all four stations showed sea levels falling because of mountain building.
The VIMS researchers said their annual reports were useful because they are more frequent and localized than other sea level projections.
"Our report cards show what sea level has been doing recently, what's happening now at your locality. Numerous studies show that local rates of sea-level rise and acceleration differ substantially from the global rates published by the IPCC and NOAA—a key result because local rates of relative sea-level rise give a direct indication of the extent to which homes, buildings, and roads are at risk of flooding," Boon said.
Forty percent of the U.S. population lives near the coast, according to The Guardian. If sea levels rise six feet by 2100, 13.1 million coastal Americans could be displaced, The Guardian reported in 2016.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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