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A new government report suggests that East Coasters best brace for a future where flooding is increasingly common thanks to sea levels that are rising along the Atlantic coast at a rate three to four times faster than the global average.
Researchers say that the specific region in the most danger from the climage change-driven rise is a 600-mile stretch that spans from Cape Hatteras, N.C., to just north of Boston, Mass. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, not only is the rate of rise above normal for that "hot spot" but the pace at which the rate is rising is also accelerating. That means the gap between the Atlantic sea rise and the global average very well might grow exponentially from here.
Since 1990, according to the report, global sea levels have climbed an average of 2 inches. Norfolk, Va., has seen its sea level rise by a total of 4.8 inches over that time. Philadelphia and New York City, meanwhile, saw rises of 3.7 inches and 2.8 inches, respectively. The rising sea levels mean flooding is more likely in those areas.
The Associated Press explains that computer models have long predicted higher sea levels for the East Coast because of global warming-driven changes to existing ocean currents, but that this is the first study to show that's already happening.
Using computer models, the USGS team hypothesized that by the year 2100, sea levels could rise as much as 3.3 feet globally, with levels 8 to 11 inches higher along the East Coast hot spot. But, as Science News points out, those trends could still reverse themselves.
The government report was published Sunday in Nature Climate Change.