Sea level rising faster than expected, Colorado professor says

Pink area shows land in the United States and Caribbean that was once above water when the sea level was up to 426 feet lower. The red areas are places that will be inundated with a 6.5 foot rise in sea level. The white area would become sea if the level rose more than 33 feet. Christian-Albrechts University/ Emanuel Soeding

A University of Colorado geologist is warning that the world’s sea level is rising much faster than expected. He plans to present his findings at a Geological Society of America conference Sunday, the society said.

The professor is Bill Hay, who said that other estimates of sea level rise did not compensate for certain feedback mechanisms that were in his computations. Consequently, he expects a one-meter rise in sea level by the end of the century, about twice what other scientists have said, noted the society in a summary of his presentation.

Hay attributed the higher level to the way in which melting arctic ice opens the way for warmer water from the south that, in turn, causes more melting, said the society.

In Costa Rica, a one-meter rise would have a strong impact on coastal Costa Rica. Already Puntarenas Centro and Limón are flooding at tides higher than normal.
The sea level has been rising for 10,000 years after the end of the last ice age. The rise is estimated in the neighborhood of 200 feet. Costa Rican officials are blaming human-caused global warming and see the solution as the reduction of greenhouse gases.

Most scientists accept this theory, but reduction in greenhouse gas is a political rather than a scientific problem.

Costa Rica has established a 200-meter maritime zone on the coasts. Except for a few properties, the beachfront belongs to the state. However, the maritime zone is defined as 200 meters above mean high tide, so if the level of the tide changes, the maritime zone will move inland.

Costa Rica officials have yet to address this likelihood.

Another report Thursday said that sea level rise in Washington, D.C., could flood 103 properties by 2050 and cost the city $2.1 billion. A five-meter rise would cause damages in excess of $24 billion, said the report by University of Maryland researchers.

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