Rising Sea Levels Could Banish Internet Cables within 15 Years!

A huge wave barrels into a seawall in Winthrop, Massachusetts on March 3, 2018, one day after an intense nor’easter hit the Atlantic coast. Photo AP/Michael Dwyer

Greetings! Here’s another sobering blog about climate change and its effect on rising sea levels. There was a recent study done by researchers at the University of Oregon and the University of Wisconsin, which said that, “internet cables will be underwater in 15 years, and it’s not too late to stop it.”

Dr. Carol Barford, coauthor of the study explained she and her researchers knew they “would see some overlap in infrastructure and shoreline, but the timing surprised them.”She continued and said, “The main thing that we didn’t expect was that it would be so soon.”

In 2015 Dr. Barford’s two coauthors, Paul Barford and Ramakrishnan Durairajan created a study which mapped the entire internet infrastructure in the United States. When you compare the map from this previous study to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] predictions of the future shoreline, it shows, “that New York City, Miami, and Seattle are at the highest risk.”

Dr. Barford estimates that, “about one-fifth to one-fourth of the fibers that make up the internet in New York city will be underwater on a normal day at high tide.” The study reports that, “CenturyLink, Intelliquent, and AT&T as companies that are at the most risk.” The main message from this study is that, “developing mitigation strategies should begin soon.”

While it is true that internet fibers were carefully designed to be water and weather resistant, “they were not designed to be underwater.” Dr. Barford explains, “The water molecules can seep into any micro-cracks of the tubes and into the glass fibers, causing signals to slow down or be lost. The movement of the signal is not as reliable when wet. Water can also damage the lines and nodes when it freezes in the tubes, thaws out and then repeats the cycle. The result is cracked or broken pieces. Lastly, water sloshing around in the conduit can jostle or break fibers.”

Dr. Barford continued and said, “Although things can change in the next century, the results are set for the next 15 years. Things happening in the next 10 to 15 years, they’re pretty locked-in because there’s a lot of inertia in the climate system. Even if we all stop driving cars and burning natural gas right now, it really wouldn’t make a difference 15 years from now. So we’re going to have flooded internet. The question is how to deal with it in the near term.”

Bradford gave three different options that officials are considering for this major upcoming internet issue…

  1. The first option is the most expensive. It involves “digging up the cables and nodes near flood areas and replacing them with waterproof counterparts.” Because it is very expensive, Dr. Barford advises against this option.
  2. The second option involves “abandoning the lines that are in danger of water damage and building new ones on higher ground. Some people have suggested that actually would be good with two fronts of infrastructure. Some of the old stuff could even be used if it wasn’t flooded.” Barford said.
  3. The third option Dr. Barford explained, “ involves rerouting the internet traffic. A lot of the need could be met by rerouting traffic through infrastructure that is on high ground.” Barford continued and said, “When overlaying the infrastructure maps with the NOAA sea level rise predictions, they used the ‘high’ scenario from the site because the association recommended using this setting when evaluating expensive or long-term infrastructure.”

The logical reason for using this third option model is because its prediction takes into account the effects of greenhouse gases on climate change. Dr. Barford explains, “It’s based on a business-as-usual greenhouse gas emission scenario, which the way we’re going seems a pretty likely thing for the next few years. We’re kind of doing business as usual, if not worse. It all seems very grim, but it definitely substantiates the idea that it’s worth looking at the more serious scenarios, and that there’s really no use to be optimistic in the near term.”

Dr. Barford said the sobering overview of rising sea levels due to climate change are from the effects of past greenhouse gas emissions “carrying over and catching up.” She added, “There’s a lot of heating and sea level rise that is just going to happen. And then hopefully we can get our act together and make the consequences less severe for people living later on in the century.”

As more news on climate change breaks, I’ll be sure to blog about it for you.

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Here’s the Save the Manatee Club link to learn more about us manatees …


Here’s a cool link for you to learn more about how we’re rescued and brought into rehabilitation …


~ Kobee Manatee


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