Rapid Sea Level Rise and Coastal “Ghost Forests”

April 27, 2023

Wilmington Star-News (Delaware):

New research reinforces what scientists and others have been warning about the ocean along the North Carolina coast: The sea is rising faster than in most other parts of the United States, and faster than what most scientists had expected.

“It’s very worrisome,” said Dr. Phil Bresnahan, an oceanographer at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. “I don’t think there’s any way around that conclusion.”

Closer to home, a recent study led by researchers from Tulane University found sea rise along the U.S. Southeast and Gulf coasts have reached record-breaking levels over the past 12 years.

The study, published late last month in the journal Nature Communications, found that researchers had detected rates of sea-level rise of about 0.5 inches a year since 2010. While that might not sound like a lot, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says average sea level has risen by 0.14 inches since the early 1990s.

“These rapid rates are unprecedented over at least the 20th century and they have been three times higher than the global average over the same period,” said Dr. Sönke Dangendorf, one of the study’s lead researchers and an assistant professor at Tulane, in a university release.

The scientists found that the accelerated sea-level rise ran from roughly Cape Hatteras to the Gulf of Mexico and into the North Atlantic and the Caribbean − an area known as the Subtropical Gyre. The paper theorized that the gyre, which is a rotating ocean current, has been altered by warming ocean temperatures − which expands water − and changing wind patterns.

Dr. Molly Mitchell, research assistant professor at VIMS, said the Carolinas have seen a significant acceleration in rising ocean levels over the past few years.

“The southern Mid-Atlantic area has been showing an acceleration rate over that time period that is a little bit higher from when we first started,” she said.

Mitchell said there could be a range of large-scale factors impacting why that’s happening, including increased ice sheet melting and changing circulation patterns. But because the tide gauges reflect very local signals, they also could be influenced by factors such as a change in water flows, drought, sinking land masses − a major problem in much of northeastern North Carolina − or other local climate and geological conditions.


One Response to “Rapid Sea Level Rise and Coastal “Ghost Forests””

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    “The ghost forest here [in Maryland] is retreating at 15 ft. a year….”

    Louisiana: Welcome to the party, pal!

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