East Coast Sea Levels Rising 4 Times Global Rate

Get out your galoshes
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 26, 2012 1:00 AM CDT
Updated Jun 26, 2012 5:30 AM CDT
East Coast Sea Levels Rising 4 Times Global Rate
A flooded road on Hatteras Island, NC, is seen after Hurricane Irene swept through the area the previous day.   (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds)

(Newser) – It might be time to escape from New York. Scientists have discovered that the sea level along America's East Coast is rising as much as four times faster than the global average, reports the National Geographic. The findings mean places like Manhattan, Boston, Philly, and Baltimore could be in for a very wet future. A hike in sea level is expected as global warming continues and ice melts, but various coasts will be affected differently, depending on things such as ocean currents, local sea temperatures, salt levels, topography, and the shape of the Earth. US Geological Survey scientists found that sea levels from the 600-mile stretch of coast from Cape Hatteras in North Carollina to the Boston area climbed about 2 to 3.8 millimeters a year between 1950 and 2009. That compares with an average 0.6 to 1 millimeter increase annually over the same period globally. Researchers believe that level could rise by 7.8 to 11.4 inches by 2100—on top of the roughly 3 feet rise expected globally.

"If you talk with residents of this hot spot area who've lived there all their lives, they'll tell you water is coming higher now in winter storms than it ever did before," says study co-author Peter Howd. What does it mean? "The first thing people will see from this is an increase over the next few decades in the low-level coastal flooding," Howd said. "Eventually, you'll see coastal flooding events three to four times a year instead of once every three or four years." And the impact will be felt inland, said another scientist. "Even gradual sea level rise could cause rapid retreat of shoreline and significant loss of wetland habitats," he warns. (Read more global warming stories.)

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