Experts have predicted that the sea levels on the California coastline could rise as much as 30 centimeters over the next 20 years. According to a recent report from the National Research Council, one of the major causes of the coastline rising is global warming which causes the expansion of seawater and melting ice caps. The report also states that extracted groundwater that eventually reaches the ocean could be another cause, but also points out that little research has been done to make a reliable conclusion.
In the case of California, specifically in the San Francisco area, one of the downsides of a rising coastline is that many airports, stadiums and housing developments are built a few feet higher than the highest tides, making it very likely that these establishments could be flooded within the next few decades.
The report states:
“Dunes … can be expected to retreat quickly under rising sea levels and larger waves. Cliff retreat is not reversible. Although coastal armoring can buy time, today’s seawalls and revetments will eventually be overwhelmed by sea-level rise and increasing wave heights. Sand dunes and beaches, which consist primarily of unconsolidated sand, provide little resistance to severe wave attack, especially at times of elevated sea level.”
As mentioned above, ocean warming is one of the major causes of the rising California coastline, and for the rising sea levels world wide. A study recently published in Nature Climate Change concluded that ocean warming was caused by man and that the only plausible explanation for ocean warming can be found when greenhouse gas increase is included into the equation.
Globally, rising sea levels threaten about a tenth of the world’s population who live in low-lying areas and islands which are at risk of flooding, including the Caribbean, Maldives and Asia-Pacific island groups. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reports that low-lying island nations, especially in equatorial regions, have been hardest hit by this phenomenon, and some are threatened with total disappearance. What’s more, ocean warming alters the marine food chain, results in ocean acidification and threatens Antarctic wildlife by potentially endangering populations of penguins, whales, seals and a host of smaller creatures within a few decades.
Unfortunately, even if we drop everything and focus on minimizing global warming this very second, it won’t help rising sea levels. Scientists have warned that even if global average temperatures drop, the rising sea levels may not stop for several hundred years. According to The Daily Mail UK:
Even if global average temperatures fall and the surface layer of the sea cools, heat would still be mixed down into the deeper layers of the ocean, causing continued rises in sea levels. This is because as warmer temperatures penetrate deep into the sea, the water warms and expands as the heat mixes through different ocean regions.
The findings of this study is crucial since is highlights why it is so important to take drastic measure to reduce global warming: Because seeing a different in our environment will take hundreds of years. If immediately fixing global warming would take hundreds of years to see a change, then just imagine how long it would take to see the changes of small measures taken.
Photo by Ron Reiring