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Rise of sea level on the United States’ East Coast accelerating faster than oceans in other parts of the world

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Last house on Holland Island, MD – where 360 people used to live

Sea level rise on the U.S. East Coast has accelerated much faster than in other parts of the world—roughly three to four times the global average…Calling the heavily populated region a sea level rise hot spot, researchers warn that cities such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore could face a more flood-prone future.

Sea levels worldwide are expected to rise as global warming melts ice and causes water to expand. Those levels, though, are expected to vary from place to place, due to factors such as ocean currents, differences in seawater temperature and saltiness, and the Earth’s shape…Now it seems scientists have pinpointed just such a variance.

Analyzing tide-level data from much of North America, U.S. Geological Survey scientists unexpectedly found that sea levels in the 1,000-kilometer stretch of coast from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to the Boston area climbed by about 2 to 3.8 millimeters a year, on average, between 1950 and 2009.

Global sea level rise averaged about 0.6 to 1 millimeter annually over the same period.

“If you talk with residents of this hot spot area in their 70s or 80s who’ve lived there all their lives, they’ll tell you water is coming higher now in winter storms than it ever did before,” said study co-author Peter Howd, an oceanographer contracted with the USGS…”We’re now finally getting to the point where we can measure their observations with our highfalutin scientific instruments.”

At New York City, the team extrapolated, sea levels could rise by 20 to 29 centimeters by 2100 — in addition to the roughly 1 meter of average sea level rise expected worldwide by then…For residents of New York and cities up and down the eastern seaboard, those numbers should become a lot more than ink on paper.

“The first thing people will see from this is an increase over the next few decades in the low-level coastal flooding that occurs now with wintertime storms,” Howd said…”Eventually you’ll see coastal flooding events three to four times a year instead of once every three to four years…”

“This could be part of a natural cycle maybe 100 to 200 years long. Or not,” study co-author Howd said. “We need more data over years to help build climate models and greater understanding.”

As you might automagically presume, the response from conservative legislatures is to pass laws which will tell the water to stop rising. North Carolina has a bill in the hopper to ban the use of the latest science and improved methods to base forecasts on these changes. As noted in the article, this is “human nature trying to outwit Mother Nature, and Mother Nature usually wins that battle of wits.”

In the case of climate deniers, we face half-wits.

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Written by Ed Campbell

June 26, 2012 at 10:00 am

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