The sea level off North Carolina’s coast is 11 inches higher than it was in 1950.1 This increase is mostly due to ice melt, and it’s causing major issues. Solutions aren’t simple due to the state’s low elevation, extensive barrier islands, and vulnerability to coastal storms. In addition to the many people that live and work in the coastal region, and vacationers that visit throughout the year, North Carolina has vast natural resources and habitats at risk, including the largest estuarine system on the U.S. Atlantic Coast.2 There are already nearly 60,000 properties at risk from frequent tidal flooding in North Carolina.3 The state is planning over $2 billion in sea level rise solutions, which include beach renourishment and improvements to reduce flooding on highways.
Sea level rise is speeding up
Although the sea has only risen by 11 inches since 1950, its speed of rise has accelerated over the last ten years and it’s now rising by over 1 inch every 2 years.1 Scientists know this because the sea level is measured every 6 minutes using equipment like satellites, floating buoys off the coast, and tidal gauges to accurately measure the local sea level as it accelerates and changes.4
SEA LEVEL MEASUREMENT FROM WILMINGTON AREA TIDE GAUGE SINCE 1950