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Sea-level rise could hit California hard

June 23, 2012 at 5:30 PM   |   Comments

SACRAMENTO, June 23 (UPI) -- A report on sea-level rise commissioned by the states on the West Coast is especially disturbing for California, scientists there say.

That's partly because scientists at the National Academy of Science's research unit determined sea levels are rising faster south of Cape Mendocino than to the north of it because geological forces to the north are pushing the land up, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The cape is in Humboldt County and the state's major metropolitan areas are south of it, while Oregon and Washington are north.

In the San Francisco area, where major airports and many towns in the region are already only a few inches above sea level, any significant rise could be devastating, the report said.

Estimates of sea-level rise for Southern and Central California covered a broad range. The report, which was released Friday, said by 2030 the increase could be anywhere from 1.5 inches to a foot, from 4.5 inches to 2 feet by 2050 and from 16 inches to 4.5 feet by the turn of the century. While even the lowest estimates would have a significant impact, increasing the strength of coastal storms and drowning wetlands, the upper ones could make life very difficult.

As an additional problem, scientists said, a major earthquake could cause a sudden local rise in sea level.

The California Department of Water Resources and its counterparts in Oregon and Washington commissioned the report as a planning tool.

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