Many major metropolitan areas on the East Coast are going to be increasingly at risk.
Sea water along shorelines around the United States will be between 0.25 and 0.3 meters higher by the middle of the century than it currently is, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and several other federal agencies.
The worst-affected will be parts of Louisiana and Texas that will see a rise of around 0.45 meters in sea level, but no community living by the sea will be left unaffected, scientists explain in a new report.
The rise in sea level over the next three decades will amount to as much as the rate throughout the entire 20th century in a sign of accelerating climate change, the experts warn.
And worse is yet to come as in another half century the relentless melting of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland will raise sea levels higher still, inundating numerous low-lying areas around the country.
“Sea level rise will create a profound shift in coastal flooding over the next 30 years by causing tide and storm surge heights to increase and reach further inland,” the scientists note in their report.
“By 2050, ‘moderate’ (typically damaging) flooding is expected to occur, on average, more than 10 times as often as it does today, and can be intensified by local factors,” they add.
The trend will have profound consequences for tens of millions of people who live along shorelines as coastal flooding “will get taken to a whole new level in just a couple of decades,” according to Andrea Dutton, a geoscientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who specializes in sea level rise and wasn’t involved in the new report.
“We can see this freight train coming from more than a mile away. The question is whether we continue to let houses slide into the ocean,” Dutton added.
Needless to say, the United States will hardly be the only country affected by rises in sea level. However, the US will get slightly more sea level rise than the global average, especially on the Gulf and East Coasts. At the same time, the West Coast and Hawaii will be less severely affected than the average.
Nor will communities around US coastlines be equally affected. By 2060 there will likely be a rise of 0.63 meters in Galveston, Texas, and nearly as much (0.6 meters) in St. Petersburg, Florida. Meanwhile, Seattle will see a rise of only 0.23 meters and Los Angeles a rise of 0.36 meters in sea level.
“It’s going to be areas that haven’t been flooding that are starting to flood,” said William Sweet, an oceanographer who was the report’s lead author. “Many of our major metropolitan areas on the East Coast are going to be increasingly at risk.”