Sea Level Rise

What is it?

Sea level rise is an increase in the global average volume of sea water. While water in a container will level itself, the ocean will not increase evenly across the globe. Some areas will be more affected than others – the East Coast of the USA is predicted to be “…particularly vulnerable to near-future sea-level rise from present-day high greenhouse gas emission rates” (Krasting et al, 2016)

How is it Measured?

Two methods are used to measure sea level rise over time.

Stationary tide gauges on beaches and in ports all over the world measure the high and low tide levels at each stage of the cycle and compare it to a benchmark. In this way we can measure the change over time.

The other method is a laser system applied by satellites as they orbit the earth which measures the surface level of the ocean.

What Causes it?
Thermal Expansion

As water warms it expands. This is because the increased heat energy causes the atoms to move around faster and faster. As the global average temperature increases, so does the temperature of the oceans.

Melting Sheet Ice

Another consequence of increased temperatures is the melting of our ice sheets and glaciers. As these melt, water which has been stored as ice for many years floods into the ocean. Why are ice sheets important? The National Snow and Ice Data Center’s (NSIDC) website states that if Greenland’s ice sheet were to melt sea levels would rise 6 meters. Scarier still, if the Antarctic ice sheet were to melt sea levels would rise 60 meters (200 FEET!).

Why is it bad?

Displacement. The single biggest problem with a rising sea level is the number of people that live in coastal areas. Unless you enjoy ankle deep water rising through your floorboards, beachfront living might not be the best investment for you too make. Unlucky for some, the majority of their net worth is already tied up in beach front property. First world problems…


Heres the thing. It’s not just a first world problem. MILLIONS of people in developing countries live along the coastline and have their entire livelihoods tied to one area. The biggest group affected will not be those that can afford to take the loss of property and move somewhere else but will be those that stand to loose what little they have during the migration inland.

What about island communities out to sea which are being swallowed by the rising tide? Arguably some of the least polluting group being affected the most. Doesn’t seem fair to me.

Do you know anyone affected by this issue? Leave a comment!


Krasting, J.P., Dunne, J.P., Stouffer, R.J. and Hallberg, R.W., 2016. Enhanced Atlantic sea-level rise relative to the Pacific under high carbon emission rates. Nature Geoscience9(3), pp.210-214.

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