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Sea levels on California coast to rise a foot by 2030, study says

June 25, 2012 |  8:32 am

Malibu beach
Much of California is sinking, extending the reach of a sea that is warming and expanding because of climate change, according to a report by a committee of scientists released by the National Research Council.

Sea levels along the California coast  are expected to rise as much as 1 foot in 20 years, 2 feet by 2050 and as much as 5 1/2 feet by the end of the century, climbing slightly more than the global average and increasing the risk of flooding and storm damage, the study released Friday says.

In Washington and Oregon, where geological processes are flexing the land upward, researchers predict a less dramatic sea level rise that will register below the global average.

The report, commissioned by California, Oregon, Washington and several federal agencies, is the closest look yet at how global warming — which causes ocean water to expand and ice to melt — will raise sea levels along the West Coast.

Tide gauges show that the world's oceans have risen about 7 inches in the last century, and that rate is accelerating, the report notes.

"Sea level rise isn't a political question, it's a scientific reality," said Gary Griggs, director of the Institute of Marine Sciences at UC Santa Cruz and a member of the committee that produced the report.


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Photo: A beach in Malibu. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times.