Sea levels are rising fast in the southeastern United States—faster than in other parts of the world, and fast enough to drive deadlier hurricanes. In a new study published recently in the Journal of Climate, climate scientist Jianjun Yin found that the sea level has risen about 5 inches in total between 2010 and 2022.
That coincides with “record-breaking North Atlantic hurricane seasons,” the study says. “As a consequence, the elevated storm surge exacerbated coastal flooding and damages particularly on the Gulf Coast.” This is an unprecedented rise in sea levels, according to another recent study corroborating the trend, published by Sönke Dangendorf of Tulane University, in Nature Communications.
Dangendorf recently told the Washington Post that the findings are “a window into the future.”
“The rates are so high in recent years, Dangendorf said, that they’re similar to what would be expected at the end of the century in a very high greenhouse gas emissions scenario,” the Post wrote. Sea levels in the southeast are rising more than twice as fast as the global average.
“While the annual totals might sound minor, even small changes in sea levels over time can have destructive consequences,” the Post reported. “Yin’s study suggested that Hurricanes Michael and Ian, two of the strongest storms to ever hit the United States, were made considerably worse in part from additional sea level rise.”
It’s still unclear exactly what’s causing the water to rise so relatively quickly, but it is certain that the Gulf of Mexico is heating up faster than the rest of the ocean. And that’s not good news. Dangendorf told the Post that his findings are troubling, and “more like what scientists once would have expected only if the world kept pumping massive amounts of planet-heating gases into the atmosphere.”