Rising sea levels contributing to more intense hurricanes, study shows

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Tuesday, April 11, 2023
How much our sea level could actually rise?
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Researchers said hurricanes over the last few years have been more severe because of higher sea levels and storm surges. Here's how it affects us here in Houston.

GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A new study from Tulane University shows some alarming numbers concerning the rising sea level and flooding.

The study claims that the sea level in the southeastern United States and the Gulf of Mexico has risen up to 5 inches since 2010.

That is double the global average, and it's moving at rates unprecedented in at least 120 years.

Researchers said hurricanes over the last few years have been more severe because of higher sea levels and storm surges.

Humans are being blamed, in part, due to greenhouse gases and aerosols.

"We could attribute approximately 40% of the acceleration to manmade climate change. But 60% of it is natural climate variability, and that's the ups and downs that always occur," Sonke Dangendorf, a River-Coastal Science and Engineering asst. professor at Tulane University, said.

Scientists also urge people to turn to clean energy. They warn that we need to adapt to these higher sea levels because we may not see the full impact of any changes we make today for several generations.

The bottom line is our greenhouse gas emissions are making the natural lows higher and the natural highs higher.

Editor's note: The study is about what researchers have learned about the natural cycle of the ocean and how it's especially high right now.

READ MORE: Is Tornado Alley shifting? Scientists explain how warming climate affects tornado activity

How could rising sea levels impact us in Houston?

Houstonians see hurricanes and tropical storms here in southeast Texas.

ABC13 Meteorologist Rachel Briers said when it comes to tropical systems in Galveston, a top concern is storm surge.

"With those rising levels, we will have to look at the potential for higher storm surge. Not just for the areas that already see it, but also for the potential for those areas that don't usually see it," Briers said.

Briers said as sea levels rise, the Houston area could see water make its way farther in.

In addition to that, she said Houston also has minor coastal flooding issues, and minor issues could become more major.

"This is something we really need to be watching. Especially as we head into the next few decades, this research that we continue to get is just going to build on that so we can make those necessary changes we need to make now before we have to deal with it in the future," Briers said. "We have the seawall in Galveston, it works great right now, but you have to think about what's going to happen in the future- how much our sea level could actually rise."

WATCH: ABC Localish Studios, in partnership with National Geographic, explores the impact of climate change and the innovations and ingenuity being applied to address it

READ MORE: Thousands of Harris County families opting out of flood insurance despite risk of home flooding