By Sally Younger,
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
New results show average sea level rise approaching the 1-foot mark for most coastlines of the contiguous U.S. by 2050. The Gulf Coast and Southeast will see the most change.
By 2050, sea level along contiguous U.S. coastlines could rise as much as 12 inches (30 centimeters) above today’s waterline, according to researchers who analyzed nearly three decades of satellite observations. The results from the NASA Sea Level Change Team could help refine near-term projections for coastal communities that are bracing for increases in both catastrophic and nuisance flooding in coming years.
Global sea level has been rising for decades in response to a warming climate, and multiple lines of evidence indicate the rise is accelerating. The new findings support the higher-range scenarios outlined in an interagency report released in February 2022. That report, developed by several federal agencies – including NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Geological Survey – expect significant sea level rise over the next 30 years by region. They projected 10 to 14 inches (25 to 35 centimeters) of rise on average for the East Coast, 14 to 18 inches (35 to 45 centimeters) for the Gulf Coast, and 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) for the West Coast.
An illustration of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite. Launched in November 2020, it is the latest in a series of spacecraft – starting with TOPEX/Poseidon in 1992 and continuing with the Jason series of satellites – that have been gathering ocean height measurements for nearly 30 years. Cred …