Effects of Rising Sea Levels on the Environment

6 Top Effects of Rising Sea Levels on the Environment

In this article, we will be looking at the Effects of Rising Sea Levels on the Environment, its causes, and answers to most questions people ask.

Oceans have mitigated the impact of humans continuing to release greenhouse gases into the sky.

More than 90% of the heat from these gases has been absorbed by the oceans, but it is having an adverse effect on them.

Ice in the arctic areas and glaciers will melt as the world’s temperatures rise, adding tons of more water to the ocean.

The oceanic expansion will also be caused by warmer water temperatures.

Due to these reasons, sea levels will rise and inundate coastal areas all across the planet.

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One of the repercussions of climate change is rising sea levels. Since 1880, sea levels have risen an average of over 8 inches (23 cm), with nearly three of those inches coming in the past 25 years.

The sea level rises by.13 inches yearly (3.2 mm.) Sea level rise is accelerating, according to new research published on February 15, 2022, and is expected to climb by a foot by 2050.

Although flooding is a clear result of rising sea levels, there are many other effects to take into account, and none of them are positive.

Before we look at the effects of rising sea levels on the environment, let us consider the causes of rising sea levels.

6 Causes of Rising Sea Levels

Nearly everywhere in the world, sea levels are rising.

The size of the beaches is getting smaller, and there is more regular coastal flooding.

Many nations, including Bangladesh, are losing their crop species as a result of groundwater contamination from the sea.

The survival of coastal settlements is being threatened in other countries, like Tuvalu.

However, the study of sea level is a complicated one. We need a ton of information on oceanic processes and observed sea-level changes to comprehend this process.

We can now collect a wide range of data thanks to technical advancements like satellites and Argo floats, which is a blessing. Below are the causes of the rise in sea levels.

  • Rising Sea Levels Are A Result Of Ocean Warming

Our seas are warming, which is one of the main causes of the sea level rise we are currently experiencing.

Global warming, according to researchers, is the primary cause of this. Consequently, water molecules enlarge when they absorb heat (thermal expansion).

They eventually lead to an expansion of the oceans themselves and a rise in sea level. Typically, the density decreases as water volume increases. In areas with high pressure or temperature, we see this phenomenon.

  • The Oceans Get More Water As Ice Sheets Melt.

The current sea-level rise is also significantly influenced by the melting of ice sheets. Which we can once more relate to global warming.

A large mass of glacial land ice that spans more than 50,000 km2 is known as an ice sheet. As a result, water is released as it melts.

The northern hemisphere used to be mostly covered by ice sheets. Today, however, only the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are still present.

But the sea would rise by 7.2 m if the Greenland Ice Sheet completely melted!

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  • Melting Ice Caps And Glaciers

Ice masses that are smaller than 50,000 km2 are known as glaciers and ice caps. Ice caps are found atop mountains, and glaciers are essentially the ice pieces we see floating in the ocean.

Small glaciers and ice caps are melting as the temperature rises. Researchers claim that since 2000, glacier loss has risen from 0.77 mm to 1.4 mm annually.

Both in the water and on land, these ice chunks’ melting may have negative effects.

The hunting grounds used by marine creatures like polar bears and seals will disappear.

Similarly, if Himalayan ice caps, such as those in the Himalayas, melt, towns downstream will be flooded.

  • Groundwater Extraction Raises Sea Level

At the moment, 982 km3 of groundwater is extracted heavily annually throughout the world.

Typically, we use it for drinking and cooking, and after we’re done, the water ends up in the sea.

Surprisingly, research indicates that this water flow also contributes to the rise in sea level.

In fact, it was responsible for 13% of the 3.1mm increase between 2000 and 2008.

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  • Heavy Consumption Of Water Stored

In contrast to groundwater extraction, when we store water in reservoirs, we stop the flow of that water into the ocean.

Approximately 8000 km3 of water is currently stored in reservoirs.

The majority of our reservoirs were built after the 1950s when the sea level dropped by 30 mm [4].

Today, however, the loss of wetlands and deforestation have increased the amount of water that enters the oceans.

The amount of water used for agriculture in places like Lake Urmia and the Aral Sea has dramatically lowered reservoir water levels.

The sea level has also gone up during the same period.

  • Sea Levels May Rise As A Result Of Long-Term Land Uplift.

The elevation of the Earth’s crust as a result of tectonic plate movement is known as land uplift. Therefore, the sea level will eventually rise as tectonic plates move.

Even so, this process moves slowly and takes place over a long period of time.

For instance, over the past 1.6 Ma, researchers discovered that the land around Florida’s shorelines has been rising at a pace of 0.02 to 0.05 mm per year.

Effects of Rising Sea Levels on the Environment

High tides and storm surges will cause flooding in coastal communities more frequently and more severely as sea levels rise.

Such floods will eventually harm buildings, bridges, roads, and other infrastructure, which will decrease property values.

Rising sea levels are already having an impact on many coastal communities. Below are some other effects that rising sea levels will have on the environment:

Animal Populations Will Be In Danger

The seashore is home to a wide variety of species. Animals like shorebirds and sea turtles will suffer as the rising ocean erodes the shoreline and floods the habitats of coastal species.

Flooding poses a serious risk to their delicate nests, which is particularly problematic for endangered species like sea turtles who cannot afford to lose any eggs.

Flooding or changes in the local plant life may severely destroy their habitats to the point where they are no longer able to exist there.

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It Will Alter The Vegetation Along Our Coast

As more saltwater reaches our coastlines, the chemistry of the soil along the shoreline will change, which most likely also affects the plant life there.

Plants are extremely environment-sensitive.

A plant’s ability to survive in a specific environment depends on a variety of conditions, including air temperature, water availability, and the chemical composition of the soil.

The ground near the coast will get saltier as increasing ocean levels soak in. Some plants can vanish from the seashore if they are simply unable to adapt to the shift in soil salinity.

Because trees must work harder to draw water from salty soil, their growth may be restricted. If the soil is too salty, trees may even die, which is a common indicator of sea level rise.

Trees that are specifically adapted to salty soil are unable to withstand frequent flooding by seawater.

It Will Pollute Our Water Supply

The groundwater sources that many coastal areas rely on for their drinking water will be impacted in many locations as the rising sea creeps further and farther up the shore.

These underground water sources, or aquifers, are essential freshwater springs; in fact, groundwater makes up the majority of the world’s freshwater.

While it is feasible to remove the salt from water, doing so is an expensive and labor-intensive procedure, making saltwater dangerous to drink.

In preparation for difficult times, several municipalities have already made costly desalination plant investments.

San Diego County is experiencing a drought. The MIT Technology Review estimates that California will spend nearly $1 billion developing the biggest seawater desalination facility in the western hemisphere.

Large-scale cost-prohibitive projects of this nature might not be feasible for coastal towns.

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It Will Impede Farming

We obtain the water for irrigation from the same freshwater sources that we use for drinking.

The same issues apply here: The encroaching sea may increase the salinity of these groundwater sources.

Crops can be hampered or even killed by saltwater, yet making freshwater from saltwater is an expensive and unsustainable operation.

In a cruel irony, new research contends that extracting freshwater from the earth for human use may be causing sea levels to increase.

After being utilized for drinking, irrigation, or other industrial reasons, groundwater is frequently dumped into the ocean, where it adds to the water that is already lapping at our coasts.

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The Economy Will Suffer

As great beachfront residences and recreational areas are destroyed by rising waters, the tourist and real estate sectors in coastal communities are likely to suffer. Some people working in these fields find it difficult to accept this fact.

The contradiction between climate science and economic interests is best shown by North Carolina.

A group of experts from North Carolina produced a report a few years ago projecting a three-foot rise in sea level by the end of the century, which is terrible news for the well-liked (and frequently pricey) North Carolina beaches.

The North Carolina government eventually approved a rule prohibiting coastal authorities from utilizing predictions of rapid sea-level rise to influence decisions for their towns after being pressured by economically astute locals and real-estate stakeholders.

However, these restrictions do not change the fact that flooded beaches are not a draw for vacationers or home buyers, who may decide to move their operations to less vulnerable places in the years to come.

What Are Six Harmful Effects Of Sea Level Rise?

When sea levels rise as quickly as they have, even a slight rise in sea level can have disastrous repercussions on coastal habitats farther inland.

It can result in damaging erosion, wetland floods, salt pollution of aquifers and agricultural soil, and lost habitat for fish, birds, and plants.

What Effect Do Rising Sea Levels Have On Humans?

People are impacted by sea level changes through flooding, the inability of rivers to empty into the ocean due to the sea being too high, and the surge of seawater onto the land during storms.

Our drinking water and the ability to cultivate crops could be harmed if sea water gets into farms and reservoirs.

Who Is Most Impacted By Sea Level Rise?

The forecasts state that just eight Asian nations—China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Japan—would be home to 70% of those who will be impacted by increasing sea levels.

What Are The 3 Causes Of Sea Level Rise?

The melting of mountain glaciers and land-based ice sheets, which increases the volume of the ocean by around 2 mm per year combined, and thermal expansion, or the ocean water expanding as it heats, account for the majority of the observed sea-level rise (about 3 mm per year) (roughly 1 mm per year).

How Would Rising Sea Levels Affect Food Security?

Reduced food and water security will arise from altered precipitation patterns paired with sea level rise, which will affect soil salinization and agricultural production.

How Does Sea Level Rising Affect The Economy?

According to a study, global GDP losses of 4% per year by 2100 are predicted if coastal regions remain unprepared.

If nations don’t get ready for increased coastal flooding now, rising oceans may cost the globe more than 4% of its GDP annually by 2100.

How do rising sea levels affect wildlife?

Particularly impacted are coastal species, some of which are losing habitat as rising sea levels submerge the beaches on which they depend for crucial survival processes like nesting.

The effects of salty sea water entering freshwater ecosystems on some species are another major worry.

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