A single dead tree sits in the surf at Benacre, Suffolk, England. Many coastal trees will perish as rising seas bring their roots into contact with salt water. 

Photograph by Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
  • Sea level rise is an increase in the level of the world’s oceans due to the effects of global warming. Burning fossil fuels is one of the causes of global warming because it releases carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere. The oceans then absorb the majority of this heat. As water becomes warmer, it expands. This results in ocean levels rising worldwide.

    Land-based ice, such as glaciers and ice sheets, is greatly affected by global warming, as well. These reserves of ice are located in places like Greenland and Antarctica. Typically, they experience melt during the warmer months of the year and the ice is replenished in colder months. With the average year-round global temperatures rising, however, ice caps and glaciers are experiencing a disproportionate amount of melting at an accelerated rate. 

    Sea level rise poses a serious threat to coastal life around the world. Consequences include increased intensity of storm surges, flooding, and damage to coastal areas. In many cases, this is where large population centers are located, in addition to fragile wildlife habitats. Therefore, people may become displaced and will need to seek safer homes. Even life farther inland is threatened because rising seas can contaminate soil and groundwater with salt. Predicting how high the sea levels will rise is difficult. However, it is an issue that must be carefully monitored so coastal areas can be prepared for the consequences.


    Sea Level Rise

    A single dead tree sits in the surf at Benacre, Suffolk, England. Many coastal trees will perish as rising seas bring their roots into contact with salt water. 

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    atmosphere Noun

    layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body.

    Encyclopedic Entry: atmosphere
    carbon dioxide Noun

    greenhouse gas produced by animals during respiration and used by plants during photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide is also the byproduct of burning fossil fuels.

    consequence Noun

    result or outcome of an action or situation.

    contaminate Verb

    to poison or make hazardous.

    displace Verb

    to remove or force to evacuate.

    disproportionately Adverb


    fossil fuel Noun

    coal, oil, or natural gas. Fossil fuels formed from the remains of ancient plants and animals.

    glacier Noun

    mass of ice that moves slowly over land.

    Encyclopedic Entry: glacier
    global warming Noun

    increase in the average temperature of the Earth's air and oceans.

    Encyclopedic Entry: The Greenhouse Effect and our Planet
    groundwater Noun

    water found in an aquifer.

    Encyclopedic Entry: groundwater
    ice cap Noun

    area of fewer than 50,000 square kilometers (19,000 square miles) covered by ice.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ice cap
    ice sheet Noun

    thick layer of glacial ice that covers a large area of land.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ice sheet
    replenish Verb

    to supply or refill.

    sea level rise Noun

    increase in the average reach of the ocean. The current sea level rise is 1.8 millimeters (.07 inch) per year.

    Encyclopedic Entry: Sea Level Rise