Scientists realize that sea levels will rise 30% more than they expected

Penguins cling to an iceberg while meltwater gushes around them | Image: National Geographic You can debate the causes all you like, but the evidence that our planet is warming up is unequivocal. One of the big effects of a warming Earth will be rising sea levels – due to melting ice caps and the fact that as water warms up, it expands. As if sea level rises weren’t bad enough already, new research suggests that scientists greatly underestimated the amount they would rise – by 30% or more. Oops.

So how did they make such a big miscalculation? it’s all down to something you wouldn’t really think about normally – dams and reservoirs. Over the last century a huge amount of water that would normally be in the sea has been trapped on land by tens of thousands of dams and reservoirs.

In fact, the total amount comes to some 2600 cubic miles – imagine a box a mile wide, a mile long and a mile high- then imagine 2599 more. It’s a massive amount.

China's massive Three Gorges Dam | Image: National Geographic All this water trapped on land means that the recorded sea level rise over the last few decades has been less than what it should have been. But wait a minute… surely it’s good if sea levels won’t rise as much, isn’t it? Erm, I’m afraid not. The problem is that construction of dams and reservoirs has been scaled back a lot in recent years, meaning that any sea level rise from now on will actually make the sea level rise a lot more than scientists predicted.

Most of us don’t need to panic – yet. But by as soon as 2100 major cities like New York and London could be permanently flooded unless we do something about it. I don’t want to sound like a scaremonger, but this really is an issue of life and death for millions of people and billions of animals around the world. You’d have to be pretty foolish to say that global warming isn’t at least partly caused by us humans. Do something great with your life – try to save the world.

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2 Responses

  1. Richard – the pictures on your blog are really nice. Clear, bright & colorful. Keep up the good work with the blog.

  2. Thanks! National Geographic’s image gallery collection is an excellent resource for photos. Sometimes there are so many nice ones I find it hard to decide which one to post – here’s the link:

    http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/

    And thanks for the compliments! Blogging started out for me as something I never really though I’d carry on with for long, but I enjoy it more and more every time I post. I like to feel I’m sharing my passion with other people all around the world, so that maybe they’ll take more of an interest in our world too.

    Thanks again! 🙂

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