Most of America's biggest cities are less than 100 miles away from a coastline disproportionally affected by rising sea levels.
A new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) confirms that rising global sea levels will disproportionately affect the U.S.
Co-authored by the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the South Florida Water Management District, as well as researchers from Rutgers and Columbia University, the report lays out six projections of sea-level rise, ranging from bad to worse.
Rising sea levels will impact different areas in different manners, depending on factors such as terrain altitude and currents.
However, in almost all the scenarios, rising sea levels will hit the east coast and Gulf of Mexico harder than the global average. Nearly all of the U.S. coastline is more vulnerable to the dangers of rising sea levels than the rest of the world, except Alaska.
“The ocean is not rising like water would in a bathtub,” said William Sweet, Ph.D., a NOAA oceanographer and lead author of the report, in a statement. “For example, in some scenarios, sea levels in the Pacific Northwest are expected to rise slower than the global average, but in the Northeast, they are expected to rise faster.”
The worst-case projection predicts that sea levels will rise by 8.2 feet by the turn of the century, 1.6 feet higher than researchers had estimated in 2012.
The best-case scenario predicts that the ocean will only rise by one foot. The report’s researchers estimate that a rise of six feet is all it would take to destroy the homes of more than six million Americans.
The rising sea levels stem from the melting of Arctic ice, thanks to the rapidly accumulating effects of global warming. For example, 2016 is the third straight year of record-setting temperatures for the planet. Meanwhile, polar ice dwindled to a record low in the same year.
Paul Mayewski, a professor at the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, told CBS News that the amount that the Earth has warmed up in the past five years is “as fast and as large a magnitude” as what transpired during the last part of the Ice Age, almost 11,500 years ago.