According to a new climate map published recently, sea level rises threaten hundreds of U.S. cities, which risk being submerged by 2100.
These alarming findings, collected under the title “Carbon choices determine US cities committed to futures below sea level”, were revealed on October 12 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study was conducted by experts from Climate Central in Princeton, N.J. and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.
As researchers explained, if current trends related to carbon dioxide emissions persist unchecked and if warm waters continue to erode the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet, the consequences will be devastating and far-reaching.
Coastal topography maps show that, as sea levels rise, they will threaten major American cities, putting them at risk of being swallowed by water. In a scenario where emissions remain at current levels, approximately 26 million homes in the U.S. will be flooded, and over 1,500 cities and municipalities will be at least 50% covered by water.
Even if carbon footprint is reduced, the damage that has been done already will still cause more than 600 cities to be submerged and more than 9 million Americans to be flooded.
Because of its low altitude and limestone foundation, Miami faces the highest risk due to this locked in rise. Other cities like New Orleans, New York, Jacksonville, Sacramento and Norfolk might also become unlivable.
Therefore, the nation might be entirely reshaped, and millions of people could be affected, by the time the next century begins.
“Future emissions will determine which areas we can continue to occupy or may have to abandon”, explained the team of scientists, led by Benjamin Strauss of Climate Central.
According to state-of-the-art estimations, every one degree Celsius of global warming could result in a 2.3 meter (7.5 feet) rise in sea levels, which would occur over a period of approximately 2,000 years. However, the effects could be felt much quicker, as ice caps melt as a result of global warming.
It appears that current carbon emissions will already lead to sea levels rising by up to 1.6 meters (5.2 feet) in the long run. In addition, since it is expected that fossil fuel infrastructure will persist in the future, sea levels might actually soar by more than 7 feet.
It remains to be seen exactly how significant this elevation will be, based on carbon footprint and also on the extent to which the West Antarctic ice sheet will continue to melt.
This portion of ice is currently losing mass at a staggering rate, which can’t be countered by snowfall. Sea levels are higher there due to gravitational pull from the ice sheets, and as the water warms it becomes less dense, climbing to even greater heights.
Estimation show that ice mass loss has increased by up to 75% between 1996 and 2006, primarily due to glacier acceleration. As the ice cap melts, it will first increase sea levels at a rate of several inches per century, but gradually it could contribute to elevations of more than one feet per decade.
Overall, the rise in sea levels could have catastrophic proportions, if human impact on the environment remains insufficiently regulated and no preventive measures are taken.
According to researchers, in initial stages, this phenomenon could severely affect coastal areas, but in the long run it could completely obliterate a vast amount of our global heritage.
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