Until It's Too Late

Icebergs near Ilulissat, Greenland, in July 2012 Photograph by Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

Sea level rise—a foot in the past century—has also surpassed the global average of 7 inches. Ocean currents and other factors unevenly distribute ongoing sea-level rise around the globe; New York is one place where seas have risen higher and will continue to do so. The interior of the state is still slowly rebounding from heavy glaciers that pushed down the surface tens of thousands of years ago, but as land rises inland, the coast, like a hinge, is slowly tilting into the rising water. As a result, the study predicts 8 inches to 23 inches of relative sea-level rise by the 2080s. But it warns that a drastic 55 inches—four and a half feet—is possible if melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets accelerates. The ice sheets’ future pace of reaction to warming is still a big unknown in climate science.

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