Rising seas changing U.S. shorelines

Nov. 9, 2004 at 12:47 PM
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DENVER, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- As the rise in sea levels accelerates, the U.S. coastline will see dramatic changes such as Galveston moving more quickly to merge with the mainland.

Presenting his research at this week's annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver, John Anderson, the Chair in Oceanography and professor of earth science at Rice University in Houston said the worst-case scenario would be a 90-centimeter boost in sea level by 2100 -- a rate of increase coastlines haven't experienced in about 8,000 years.

"On geologic time scales, barrier islands like Texas' Galveston and Padre islands retreat toward land," said Anderson. "The Galveston shoreline, for example, is moving about 1.5 meters inland every year. But the same forces that are slowly eroding the beaches on the windward side of the island deposit that sand on the leeward side, so the island itself remains a stable barrier, even though it marches slowly toward shore."

Scientists know from oceanographic records that sea level has been rising worldwide for at least 10,000 years, but the trend toward slowing rates of sea level rise is expected to reverse this century, as global warming pushes rates back up.

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