Rising Sea Levels: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mark Boster
Some people worry about everything. Will I get my homework done in time? What do I do if the dog gets loose? You may hear some people worrying about rising sea levels. Is that something we should be worried about? Let's find out.

Rising Waters

Have you ever noticed that when you get in the bathtub, the water rises? If there are too many things or people in the tub, it will overflow. Some people are concerned that, at some point, the oceans are going to overflow and destroy a lot of things on land.

Let's take a look at sea levels, why they're rising and what that means.

Why Are Sea Levels Rising?

The term 'sea level' refers to the average height of all the oceans.

Scientists believe the sea levels are rising because the ice at the North and South Poles is melting. Greenland, which is mostly ice, is melting a bit too. When all this ice melts, it obviously warms up. Warmer water takes up more room than ice and cooler water, so that is also helping the sea to rise.

The ice is melting because the Earth is warming up. The Earth warmed up by 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the 20th century and is expected to warm up another 3.6 degrees in the next 100 years.

The rise of sea levels has been pretty slow. Since 1900, ocean levels have risen about 20 centimeters (8 inches). That comes out to 2 millimeters, or the same size as the edge of a nickel, each year. Scientists predict the levels may rise quicker in the future.

Each year, the oceans rise about the height of the edge of a nickel.

Why Is Earth Getting Warmer?

Scientists believe that the Earth is naturally getting warmer because the planet is still getting warmer from the last ice age. Because of this, the landscape has changed.

Did you know that at one point in time, the sea levels were about 400 feet lower than they are now? In fact, at that time you could walk from Russia to Alaska.

Another likely cause of rising temperatures on Earth are emissions from human activity. The oceans absorb most of this extra heat.

Confusing Fact About Sea Levels

There is one confusing thing about the sea levels rising. The ocean on the east coast of the United States is rising, but the ocean on the west coast is getting lower. Some scientists explain that by saying that the oceans are rising, but the floor of the Pacific Ocean is dropping.

Other scientists say that some years the level rises and sometimes it falls. Depending where on Earth you measure the sea, it has risen by as much as 21 mm in a year or dropped as much as 18 mm in a year.

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