As stated in our “How Methane Heating Works” article, “Natural gas derives from animal and plant matter that was heated and pressurized in earth’s layers (hence why it is referred to as “fossil fuel”).” Within the last century, the burning of these fossil fuels combined with other human related activities, has released heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. In effect it has caused the Earth’s temperature and sea levels to rise.

This rise in sea level is linked to thermal expansion, melting of glaciers and polar ice caps, and ice loss from Greenland and West Antarctica. 

Thermal expansion is when matter changes in volume due to a change in temperature. In the case of rising sea levels, water temperatures have increased; therefore, it has expanded.

The melting of glaciers and polar icecaps is generally a naturally occurring phenomenon. During the summer months these bodies of ice will undergo slight melting. Usually the cycle continues so that in the winter the snow balances out the melting. However, in recent years unusually high temperatures caused by climate change have led these ice formations to melt at greater rates and reduced snowfall. In turn the natural cycle has been disturbed causing more runoff than evaporation, which leads sea levels to rise.

Similarly to the glaciers and icecaps, the increase of temperatures has caused the ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica to melt at an accelerated rate.

Overall the rises in sea levels have a negative effect on coastal communities. It can lead to erosion, flooding, and contamination. Additionally higher sea levels provide storms with dangerous amounts of force that can destroy everything in its path. An example of this would be hurricane Sandy who devastated areas in the Caribbean and along the east coast in the U.S. Ultimately rising sea levels affect the economy in terms of businesses that depend on tourists who visit beaches and coastal areas.

Should the temperatures continue to rise at this accelerated rate, cities on the east and west coast in the U.S., along with international areas like London and Greenland can potentially suffer from submersion.

Looking to the future we can improve drainage systems, elevate buildings, construct protective barriers that deter flooding, and build houses and other structures away from the coastline.