How is sea level rise related to climate change?

A warming climate can cause seawater to expand and ice over land to melt, both of which can cause a rise in sea level.

A flooded road in LA

Storm surge on a Louisiana highway shows the effects of rising sea levels.

Many people are interested in climate change and how a changing climate will affect the ocean. With the majority of Americans living in coastal states, rising water levels can have potentially large impacts. Scientists have determined that global sea level has been steadily rising since 1900 at a rate of at least 0.04 to 0.1 inches per year.

Sea level can rise by two different mechanisms with respect to climate change. First, as the oceans warm due to an increasing global temperature, seawater expands—taking up more space in the ocean basin and causing a rise in water level. The second mechanism is the melting of ice over land, which then adds water to the ocean.