Rising Sea, Eating Cities?

During the question/answer segment of my Arctic Cold War talk at the 24C3, alot of people raised tough and specific questions about the Arctic conflict and the facts I used to illustrate the dangers of both military build up and the melting of the arctic. One particular question came from international man of mystery Dan Kaminsky who asked me about data that indicates melting arctic ice is contributing to rising sea levels putting many coastal cities at great risk in the next decade.

As often happens during my talks and virtually any story I tell in everyday life, I may exaggerate my examples, and in the talk I said that most of the arctic ice would be melted by 2015. I also said that ocean levels would rise at an even greater pace and cities like Amsterdam and New York would find themselves in great danger. Dan seemed concerned at the immediacy that such cities would be swallowed up by water, so when he asked me again about it, I calmed down a bit and said, more accurately, that coastal cities would see an increasing rate of rising water levels, so technically some millimeters per year.

Since then I’ve had a chance to examine further that particular phenomenon, and double check what the hell I was saying. Here’s what I’ve figured out:

  • Ice melting (over land) in places like Greenland (glaciers) and polar ice caps is a cause of accelerated ocean level rise.
  • By 2015 the arctic ice cover in the summer is predicted to be completely gone.
  • According to most measurements I find, the average global sea level rise in the 20th century is around 1.2 mm per year.
  • However the average yearly rate since 1992, according to specialized satellite data is 2.8mm.
  • If we look specifically at the case of New York City, where the sea level has been rising .03 meters (11 inches) per decade, NY State emergency management models indicate that by 2050, the level will rise between 15 and 19 inches. (38 cm or more)
  • By 2080 the level will have risen by more than 3 ft! (.9 m)

So although I know Dan is not a regular reader of this blog, now I have more detailed information about just how bad the rising ocean levels are getting and what it means for a city like New York. Next time you’re in the Large Apple, stand at the east river, look down and picture that water 1 meter higher.


  1. lemarie17
    January 10, 2008

    This sort of thing freaks me out. It’s be REALLY warm in Jersey this past week. Like no jacket weather. Of course many people I encountered think this is the “end-times” and are welcoming it. Seriously, these people think this is Biblical prophecy coming true. I say, “Hey, why don’t we recycle more and look into alternative energies.” Of course, then they think I’m crazy. We could stop this if we all change our ways. Sad that people won’t follow scientific advice. My poor old dad who is a retired science teacher can’t believe that people are so ignorant.

    • bicyclemark
      January 12, 2008

      ah yes.. they “global warming is making our town a tropical paradise yay” attitude. theres a bit of that going around.

  2. January 10, 2008

    While most people think of rising sea level as a vertical rising, for many in coastal areas or further upland but along riversheds the rise is horizontal. That is, the house is constantly wet or the path to the groceries (in our case, out to sea to hunt) is filled with sand, or the tundra dies under water, or the river bank is undercut, or the storm surges encroach farther inland or the sand pads and in-filling to support houses sink.

    Even if one doesn’t live on a barrier island, a small change is sea level is far-reaching, even critical. It’s hard to get that point across to our state and federal agencies. In Alaska the talk is only of a handful of cities in need but we have a couple of hundred that have been affected and are increasingly affected by environmental change.

    • bicyclemark
      January 12, 2008

      Hi Pamela. Happy New Year, yes its time to stop saying that, I know. Horizontal rising… I noticed those terms in my research.. horizonal and vertical sealevel rise.
      The more I learn about the northwest passage and the fight to control it, the more I get very angry at both the Canadian and the American governments (besides Russia and Denmark) they are like parasites feeding off the irresponsible destruction of the earth.

  3. weazle
    January 15, 2008

    I just wanted to recommend a documentary about the gulf stream: Future Focus – The Gulf Stream and the Next Ice Age, it’s pretty interesting and it covers another factor which may play a factor in the melting of the ice in the artic.

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