What is Sea Level Rise?

Sea level rise is a symptom of a warming planet.

For millions of years, the average temperature of  Earth has allowed a certain amount of moisture to be locked up in frozen reservoirs: glaciers and polar ice caps. This is changing very quickly due to the extreme volume of greenhouse gases humans are releasing into the atmosphere.

Additionally, as the ocean warms, it expands and it’s volume increases.

While the ocean level is rising, in some areas the land is still rising, or rebounding since the last ice age, or as glaciers melt. Additionally, the topography, or shape of the land will have some impact on how tides and water levels interact with the coastline.

Geo-science experts help us to understand these factors, and have lead to data sets that can tell us where sea level rise will have the most impact.


People will experience the impacts of sea level rise to varying degrees.

While those living directly on the coast will feel the impacts most directly, others will suffer from coastal flooding. Some examples:

  • If you pay taxes to a regional government that has infrastructure on the coast, your taxes will likely go up – whether or not your home is on the coast.
  • Sunshine destinations with economies reliant on beach going tourists, and tourism travel industry, will suffer the costs of  reduced visitation in addition to adaptation measures.
  • Food production in coastal flood plains can be adversely affected by flooding and saltwater intruding groundwater  irrigation sources, impacting worldwide markets for produce.

Learn more about how sea level rise will affect you.

diagram of salt water intrusion

Credit: Sabrina Doyle [Click for more information]