Storm Surges

Many models predict that climate change effects are already irreversible. Horrid weather events, uncontrollable natural disasters, and upcoming "doomsday." However, the forgotten, extremely dangerous threat to our Earth is actually, not volcanic eruptions and tsunamis, but storm surges as a result of climate change.


Storm Surges are directly created by tropical cyclones such as tsunamis and hurricanes. These surges are when the oceans tide levels are above those of the normally predicted ones, usually in correlation with high wind levels, which cause the water to rise. The wind in these tropical cyclones push the water ashore, hence the name storm surge, a surge of water onshore. This causes waves of water to rush onto land. Atmospheric pressure is also a contributor to storm surges, and pressure is always higher on the edges of a storm (cyclone). This means that water will be pushed out of the center and onto the edges, where water will then swell at the eye of the storm. The winds at the eye wall have already helped to create winds that aid with rising the tides. An example of a storm surge is the one after the Category 2 Hurricane Ike. The surge itself was three levels higher than the actual hurricane (Ike Storm Surge was a Category 5). The waves reached 20 feet. 

Texas has cattails and oak trees within the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge that act in a shield like way to protect the more coastal parts of the state from any of the surges. Wetlands absorb excess water and waves before they reach any cities, minimizing or eliminating the destruction all together. 

Global warming’s effect on the ocean is the rising tides that are not associated with storm surges. As the ocean levels continue to rise, however, storm surges will have a further reach and a more drastic effect on human infrastructure and the biosphere. It also means that coastal habitats will be demolished and beach erosion will possibly be more frequent. The U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit professes that around the 1900’s, the level of the waves would have been eight inches less than they are now. Similarly, by 2100, they estimate that there will be another rise between 1 and 8 feet in ocean levels in comparison to the height of ocean levels in the 2000’s. 

This means that not only will the level of the ocean go up by several feet, but the storm surge height will be added on top of that. The water levels in surges can rise as much as 33 feet at high tide, meaning waves will be even more catastrophic then they already are. 

This means that not only will the level of the ocean go up by several feet, but the storm surge height will be added on top of that. The water levels in surges can rise as much as 33 feet at high tide, meaning waves will be even more catastrophic then they already are. 

Is there really anything anybody can do to stop the rising oceans? It all comes down to the commonly stated solution: Cut down on fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions. Unfortunately, this will only help to slow the inevitable. But even to do this, there are alot of other things that need to happen.There are 2 main contributors to the rising sea levels: thermal expansion and melting ice. Thermal expansion is when water starts taking up more space because of a warmer climate. Warmer water takes up more space then cooler water. 


Photo by Sanjana Satagopan

Warm things expand since each atom will start to take up more space as something is warmed up, and the kinetic energy that each atom has increases. Thermal expansion accounts for approximately one-third of rising sea levels. The melting ice is due to icebergs, sheets of ice, and other ice/snow structures melting as the climate warms. The now water will melt into the sea, increasing the sea level by two-thirds. Greenland and Antarctica have ice sheets and glaciers that melt from the warmer seas, the warming air, or by breaking off. So, in order to slow down the rising oceans, melting ice needs to stop, but in order for melting ice to stop, oceans need to reduce their amount of thermal expansion. In order to do that, warmer temperatures need to be reduced. So it comes back full circle. In order to stop warming temperatures, fossil fuels and carbon emissions need to also be reduced, or just cut fully. Everything is connected to each other, and everything supplies consequences for each other as well.


 At the moment, the future may seem bleak. There is a possibility that the ice caps of Antarctica can be stopped, but to do so would take centuries. At the rate the climate is warming (an average increase of 0.18 degrees celsius since 1981), supposedly one of the best things to do is, again, cut fossil fuels and carbon emissions. If everyone puts in a little bit of effort (or a lot) towards bettering the environment for future generations, think about what those generations could be able to do, both environmentally, and just by living their best lives. Global warming is going to catch up with humanity eventually. As the population continues to reach alarming rates and the possible need for materials like fossil fuels in the future, it’s most likely that climate change can never be stopped. In fact many models predict climate change will end up getting worse. All humanity can do is to start trying to better what they can now.