The worst case scenario for sea level rise in the United States is more than just a dim possibility. It’s becoming more likely.
An annual “report card” for the US coastline shows sea levels are speeding up in most places measured.
“Acceleration can be a game changer in terms of impacts and planning, so we really need to pay heed to these patterns,” says John Boon at William and Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS).
Out of the 32 tidal stations monitored from Maine to Alaska, the team detected sea level rise in no less than 27. What’s more, 25 of those locations experienced higher rates of sea level rise in 2019 than in the year before.
The Gulf Coast in Louisiana, and Galveston and Rockport in Texas were at the very top of the list. In fact, Rockport trumped all 32 stations, exhibiting a rate of sea level rise that the authors say would ultimately leave water levels 0.82 metres higher in 2050 than in 1992.
In the end, only five stations around the country experienced falling sea levels, four of which are located in Alaska, where coastal mountains are in the process of forming (whereas, on the east coast, land is generally busy sinking).
“Although sea level has been rising very slowly along the West Coast,” says marine scientist Molly Mitchell, “models have been predicting that it will start to rise faster. The report cards from the past three years support this idea.”
It’s not just the team at VIMS, nor is it just the US experiencing this. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) thinks sea level rise is accelerating around the world, and it’s been doing so since around 2013 or 2014.