For over a century now, sea level has been on the rise and has been at an even more rapid rate in the last decade.
According to tidal gauge readings and satellite measurement, Global Mean Sea level has been on the increase by 0.3 inches (3.2 millimeters) annually. Within the last decade, it has approximately doubled the increase rate in the previous 80 years.
The increasing rate of the sea level rising especially in the last decades attributes to the additional heat absorbed by the oceans and the increase in the earth’s surface temperature. This increase is caused by the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as a result of fossil fuel burning and other human and natural activities.
Experts are of the opinion that the cause of the increase in the sea level is climate change. Factors which include the following
Melting Polar Ice caps and Glaciers
Typically, every summer, a small fraction of polar ice caps and glaciers naturally melt. The melting fraction of these ice structures is regained during the winter snow to strike out the effect of the melting and maintain balance in the ecosystem. However, the consistent increase in global temperatures due to the global warming have disrupted the balance-maintaining melting and freezing of these massive ice structures. The volume of the summer melting has increased while the number of snow falls during winter have reduced, this imbalance has led to an increase in the surface water which flows into the oceans causing sea levels to rise.
As the earth’s temperature increases, large water bodies like the oceans heats up as it absorbs about 80% of the heat causing it to expand. The expansion leads to a rise in the expanse of land occupied by oceans leading to rising in sea levels.
Loss of Ice in West Antarctica and Greenland Regions
From times of old, massive sheets of ice have been known to cover this region, but in recent times the massive sheets have been compromised by the rise in global temperatures. According to climatologists and oceanographers, the ice from these regions has been lost due to the action of meltwater from above as well as the sea water found below the ice streams. These factors had led to the floating of ice structures on the sea and the eventual increase in the sea level after they have melted completely.
The impacts of sea level rise
The rapid rise in the sea level affects the ecosystem. From the immediate to the long-term consequences if humanity does not change its course to address the causes. The immediate aftermath of the rapid sea level rise is the submerging of the coastal lines which have devastating effects as it could lead to the destructive erosion of ancient landmarks, total loss of the habitats for aquatic animals and coastal plants.
On the long run, coastal regions will have to adapt to new conditions which are characterized by increased flooding, saltwater intrusions into groundwater, contamination of agricultural soil and the aquifers. The multiplier effect of this development will manifest in the socio-economic aspect of the affected areas which will be overwhelmingly negative; as it could lead to humanitarian crises, changes in the housing industry and a struggle for natural resources. Some of these effects are already made manifest in some areas of the world like the Maldives islands, countries of the south, south-east and East Asia, the coastlines of Egypt and Mozambique.
To effectively curtail the effects of sea rise, even though it is considered late in some quarters, there is a need for countries and global organizations to expedite action on climate policies that are sustainable and sufficient enough to reverse this development. Also, there is a need for persistence in gaining an advanced scientific understanding on the processes that control sea level rise, its non-climate components, make estimates pertaining the possible futuristic impacts and develop, a possible pragmatic solution to address the ugly unfolding scenarios
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