Causes of Sea Level Expansion
As the world continues to focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the consequences of climate change, it is important to look at the potential causes of sea level expansion due to climate change. Rising sea levels are a major concern for coastal and island nations, as well as humanity as a whole, as they can lead to drastic changes in ecosystems and human infrastructure, such as flooding and coastal erosion. This article will explore some of the primary causes of sea level expansion and the consequences it may have for human society.
Melting Ice Sheets and Glaciers
One of the primary causes of rising sea levels is the melting of polar ice sheets and glaciers due to global warming. This trend is becoming increasingly more noticeable as temperatures continue to rise each year, and the effects of this melting are already being felt. Ice sheets and glaciers are like giant reservoirs that hold a great deal of frozen water, and as these start to melt, this massive amount of water flows directly into the oceans, increasing their size. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are melting at faster rates than ever before, and it is projected that these melt rates will continue to increase in the future. As the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets continue to drip their frozen water into the sea, sea levels around the world will inevitably rise.
Another major cause of sea level expansion is thermal expansion, which occurs when the temperature of a liquid rises. As the temperature of earth’s oceans rise due to global warming, the water molecules within them expand, taking up more space than before and thereby increasing the volume of the oceans overall. This causes sea levels around the world to rise, as the water has nowhere to go aside from onto the land. In addition to thermal expansion, the melting of ice sheets and glaciers also enhances this process as it increases the total volume of the oceans.
In addition to ice sheets and glaciers melting on the surface of the earth and thermal expansion, another major contributor to sea level rise is the melting of underwater polar ice sheets. According to a 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, melting of ice sheets beneath the surface of the oceans is causing a significant amount of additional water to be released into the sea. This phenomenon is especially pronounced in the polar regions, where undersea glaciers and ice sheets are melting at record rates. As they continue to drip their frozen water into the sea, global sea levels continue to rise.
Consequences of Sea Level Expansion
Of course, sea level expansion is a major concern not just because of the direct cause, but also due to the many effects that rising sea levels may have on human society. Coastal communities, for example, will be especially vulnerable to rising seas, as they may be inundated with water on a regular basis. This water may damage or destroy property, or even lead to dangerous flooding events in populated areas. In addition, ecosystems may be disrupted or dramatically changed due to increased salinity, as well as other changes that may be brought about by rising seas.
The best way to mitigate the effects of sea level expansion is to stop or reduce the main cause: the emission of greenhouse gases which are causing global temperatures to rise. Reducing our emissions will help to bring the global temperature trend under control, and this in turn will limit the rate of melting of polar ice sheets and glaciers, as well as thermal expansion of the oceans. Additionally, there are some measures that can specific be taken to reduce the effects of a rising sea level such as the establishment of sea walls, the restoration of protective wetlands and shorelines, and improved natural drainage systems.
Sea level expansion due to climate change is a major concern for coastal nations and humanity as a whole, as it can lead to drastic changes in ecosystems and human infrastructure. This article has discussed some of the primary causes of sea level expansion, including melting polar ice sheets and glaciers, thermal expansion of the oceans, and underwater ice sheet melt. It has also explored the potential consequences of a rising sea level, such as increased flooding and destruction of human property and ecosystems. Finally, some means of reducing the effects of expanding oceans were discussed, and solutions such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and establishing protective measures in coastal areas were proposed. Taken together, these measures can help to mitigate the impacts of rising seas.