Sea Level Rise: Causes & Effects

Understand Causes and Effects of Sea Level Rise with Future Predictions

Sea Level Rise

The fact that there is only one constant in the world, and that is change is so true. But every move cannot be assumed to be right; the best example is climate change. Climate change is an outcome of Global warming.

Global warming is entirely a human-made disaster, and its impacts are such that there will come a day when our beloved planet will drown into an ocean of destruction caused by Global Warming. Earth will drown one day because the data suggests that sea-level rise in the 21st century is going to exceed far beyond the rates of the last few centuries.

To bring a positive change, we need to understand the nitty-gritty of this enormous problem. In this article, we endeavor to explain the causes, effects, and predictions of the rise in sea level.

sea level rise causes

Causes of Sea level rise:

Nothing in this world can be classified under the heads of black and white; everything has a shade of grey. Judging by the similar yardstick, it will be difficult to prepare an exhaustive list of factors that cause the rise in sea level. There are things that we consciously or unconsciously do that ultimately lead to an increase in sea level. However, we try to distinguish the causes of sea-level rise as natural and human-made to understand them properly in a better way.

The factors like melting of ice from land, expansion of warm waters, the sinking of land and a slowing gulf stream. Most of these factors are a part of the natural process. Still, sometimes the adverse phenomenon like Global warming expedites these processes leading to an imbalance in the harmonious construction of the natural process.

These factors can be understood correctly in the following heads:

Melting of ice from land into the sea:

Each year about 1700 trillion pounds of ice melt from the humongous landmasses of Greenland and Antarctica. This data is only from two landmasses imagine how higher this will spike if we take into consideration the melting ice sheets of the Arctic and other regions of the world. Now, these melting ice sheets are not a part of our oceans, but the water from them ultimately finds its way to the Oceans, leading to a rise in sea level across the world.

Expansion of warm waters:

Thermal expansion is a physical phenomenon that can be construed from the fact that warm the substance higher the density. Thermal expansion works similarly for our ocean water as well. As the global temperature rises, the waters in our oceans become warm. This warming of ocean waters consequently results in their expansion. The data suggest that thermal expansion of warm waters attributes to about one-third of the global rise in sea level.

The sinking of land:

Another cause of the sea-level rise is indeed a surprising one. When the level of the soil starts to sink, the level of the sea will rise comparatively. 54% of sea-level rise in Virginia has been attributed to the sinking of land. To understand the gravity of it in a better way, let us know the reasons for the sinking of land.

  • Extinction of underground water as a result of reckless over consumption.
  • Drying of wetlands is leading to drying of soil consequent to which soil loses its density and sinks lower.
  • The reckless building of massive infrastructure in densely populated areas further pushes the ground down.
Info-graphic of sea level rising effects since Jan 1993 to present. Source – CLIMATE.NASA.GOV

A slowing gulf stream:

Gulf Stream is like an oceanic conveyor belt that circulates a significant quantity of water across the globe. It plays a significant role in taking water away from the shores. But the melting of glaciers leads to the mixing of freshwater from ice with the cold salt water in oceans which eventually leads to slow down in the Gulf Stream. This slow Gulf Stream pulls less water away from our shores, causing a local sea-level rise.

Effects of Sea Level Rise:

The impact of sea-level rise is going to be devastating. It disturbs the balance that nature has created. Sea level rise is catastrophic to the habitability of Earth. The following few points will enlist a few of the harmful impacts of Sea Level Rise:

  • Destructive Erosion is one of the unfortunate outcomes of sea-level rise; it wrecks the quality of soil in the coastal habitats. The coastal areas of Asia and Africa seem to be right at the striking point of Sea level rise.
  • Wetland Flooding is another dreadful consequence of sea-level rise in coastal areas. It destroys the habitat of wetlands which ultimately leads to a number of other devastating factors.
  • Higher sea level rise tends to coincide with deadly hurricanes and typhoons that lead to humongous storm surges that strip away everything that comes in their way.
  • Sea Level Rise leads to contamination of agricultural soil, and aquifers with salt. 71% of the earth is covered with water and only a small percentile of it is worth drinking. Sea level will surely lead to the complete contamination of water resources.
  • This high sea-level rise even destroys the habitat of birds, fish, and plants. Animals like polar bears and penguins are on the verge of extinction.
  • It causes floods in low lying areas.
  • It also threatens the communication infrastructure, necessary infrastructure and other essential services like internet access.
  • All these effects of sea-level rise ultimately tend to impact human civilization. A recent study published in ‘journal nature communications’ suggests that the number of people who will be impacted by sea level rise is way higher than previous estimates.
  • It has been predicted that by the year 2050 a total of 150 million people will be living below the waterline, during low tides.
  • Data and statistics go so far to suggest that by 2050 almost 300 million people will be living in areas of recurrent floods. The rise in the number of people who will be impacted by the rise in sea level seems to know no bounds.
  • The data projects a devastating picture for the already suffering Asian countries. It suggests that 70% of the population that will have to bear the brunt of sea-level rise lives in 8 countries namely; India, China, Bangladesh, Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

Sea Level Rise Predictions:

Predicting the increase in the future becomes complex due to several limitations and technological restrictions. Due to the non-availability of requisite resources and lack of accessibility of various factors the predictions of sea-level rise have faced scrutiny over and over again. But attempts have been made to improve the data every now and then and to put it more statistically.

Data suggests that there has been a rise in global sea level due to thermal expansion since the beginning of the 20th century and data measured from satellite radars indicate an increase of 7.5 cm from 1993 to 2017.  Even before 1993, the sea level was on the rise, but anthropological factors like the beginning of an industrial revolution and other similar factors have led to a ceaseless growth in numbers suggesting sea level growth.

One can assume the difference and gravity of the problem by comparing the available data from the last few centuries. For the purpose of a comparative analysis of the past and future, some studies have been conducted. These studies conducted by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggest that by the end of 2099, that is, by the end of this century the sea levels will rise almost 200 to 270 cm.

The data projects an average rise of sea level, but the biggest problem is the fact that sea level never rises equally. The rise is not uniform is the major factor to be worried about, to say the least. Some areas are currently under the catastrophic impacts of Sea level Rise and some will bear its brunt in the coming future.

This ballooning expansion of sea level over the last few centuries suggests that our planet is on the verge of extinction. If we do not take the right steps at the right time, the traces of humanity will be entirely dissolved in the waters of destruction caused by Global Warming and climate change.

What are your thoughts s about it? If you can add on to it with examples and data, feel free to share it with us also with your friends.


I am a Post Graduate in Marketing and supply chain management with over 3 years of experience in a professional job and one-year experience at NGO. Earth Reminder must be our topmost priority because the resources which we are using today will not be there tomorrow. The sad part is we are not giving it back, for example- Cutting trees daily but not planting new trees daily. Products that we are using are not natural anymore as some kind of manipulation is always there. Even now, vegetables are not naturally grown from the soil as people use chemicals to grow them faster. With Earth Reminder, I am raising concern by bringing informational content related to earth care to the world and guiding them to contribute towards the Mother Earth.

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