Apr 11, 2023 - News

Gulf of Mexico sea levels are rapidly rising

People stand at a pier to watch high waves ahead of Hurricane Laura in Galveston

Hurricane Laura brought a storm surge to Galveston in 2020. Photo: Go Nakamura/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sea levels in the Gulf of Mexico have been rapidly rising since 2010, according to a new study from Tulane University — putting Houston and other coastal regions at risk of more detrimental effects from storms.

Driving the news: The study, published Monday in Nature Communications, finds that sea levels in the Gulf and the southeastern U.S. have risen at a rate of about a half inch per year since 2010, according to Tulane.

Why it matters: Rising sea levels, coupled with warmer waters, can make for stronger hurricanes and more devastating storm surge flooding.

What they're saying: "These rapid rates are unprecedented over at least the 20th century," said Sönke Dangendorf, the lead author of the study. "They have been three times higher than the global average over the same period."

How it works: Scientists looked at data dating back to 1900, including satellite imagery and field measurements.

Yes, but: The study also predicts that sea levels will return to more moderate levels in the coming decades.

  • "However, this is no reason to give the all-clear," said study co-author Torbjörn Törnqvist. "These high rates of sea-level rise have put even more stress on these vulnerable coastlines, particularly in Louisiana and Texas, where the land is also sinking rapidly."

Meanwhile, work is ongoing for planning and implementing the Ike Dike coastal spine near Galveston to bolster the Houston region's resiliency against tropical threats.

What we're watching: Hurricane season starts again in June.


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