New evidence has shown that a “hot spot” could cause sea levels on the eastern seaboard of the US to advance faster than the projected global average. This increase is attributed to a change in the North Atlantic current, which scientist say is warming and as a result slowing down.
The affected are stretches over 600 miles, from North Carolina all the way to northern Massachusetts. In a study conducted by the USGS, global sea levels have risen between 0.6 and one millimeter per year since 1990, but levels along this portion of the eastern seaboard have gone up 3.7 millimeters in some areas- four times the global average. You may be thinking that this is such a small rise, how could it possibly affect things? Over a few years, yes, the difference may be fairly negligible, but over several decades the change adds up. This rise happens not just at a quicker rate, but at a more rapid pace, like a car on a highway “jamming on the accelerator,” says the study’s lead author, Asbury Sallenger Jr., an oceanographer at USGS. He has observed sea levels since the 1950′s, and noticed a change beginning in 1990.
By the year 2100 global sea levels are anticipated to rise more than a meter, the added increase caused by this “hot spot” could add almost an extra foot of water on top of that. “Extreme water levels that happen during winter or tropical storms, perhaps once or twice a year, may happen more frequently as sea level rise is added to storm surge,” says Karen Doran, co-author of the USGS study. This will undoubtedly cause many large population centers below this new waterline more than a little trouble in the coming decades. The number of people living in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia, just to name a few of the cities that will likely be affected—and their likely exit from the area before, during or after the floods—poses a real problem. Where are all of these people going to go? New York City alone has over 8 million people. That’s more than a serious traffic jam; it’s an exodus, a migration of mass proportions.
Regardless if you are for or against the argument that man has caused global warming, the simple fact is that the world as we know it is getting hotter. We cannot ignore the reality that sea levels and climate as a whole are going through a major transition-nor the fact that this is a part of normal Earth function. Our planet constantly ebbs and flows between warm and cool periods- and as a result wet and dry periods. More water is locked up in ice during the cooler periods, resulting in lower sea levels, while during warmer periods more water is in liquid form, causing sea levels to rise.
Whether we are speeding up the process, all of this is part of the Earth’s natural cycles. As a species we have even experienced it before- though this was thousands of years ago and little of our ancestor’s accounts of such phenomenon and how they dealt with them remain for us to study. But many cultures share in common a flood story of some type, where in the earth is inundated by massive floods that wipe much of the earth clean of life— or at the least dramatically change the landscape.
Are we in for another flood? Scientists think so, but not on the order of world-ending myths so common to many ancient cultures. No need to rush out to your local hardware store and start construction on an ark. That being said, many cities and countries might want to take some preventative measures.
Immediate or not, we need to start to think outside of the box as to how we will deal with climate change, and building over water is one alternative to trying to divert it. This may be one of many answers to increased sea levels that seemingly every scientist agrees are in our future, the time to argue over the existence of global warming has come and gone. The time to take action is now and the sooner we prepare, the less the effects will be felt by future generations.
By Will Inglis