Climate Change and Rising Sea Levels – How and Where it Affects Long Island

By: Emmanuel Jaquez
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Climate Change and Rising Sea Levels - How and Where it Affects Long Island

Climate change affects everyone on this planet. The environment people live in can drastically change if left unchecked. With rising sea levels, Long Island’s unique geographical features make some areas on the island susceptible to more drastic changes.

Climate change is a long-term change in local or global climate patterns. Many contributions impact climate change, such as increasing C02 emissions, methane gasses and more.

With warmer weather, it allows for unwanted species of algae to bloom in areas where they once would rarely bloom. Harmful algae blooms are toxic to Long Island’s environment and humans. Harmful algae blooms deplete the oxygen in the surrounding water.

Climate change has been affecting Long Island’s ecosystem in many ways. One of the most impacted animals is oysters. They are extremely important to the island’s ecosystems. Oysters act as a natural filter, clearing up the water from unwanted debris. 


“In the 70s and early 80s, there were so many clams that they could filter the whole bay in just three days,” said Professor Christofer Gobler, a scientist in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. “I like to think about it as a filter in a fish tank. If the filter is working well, the water is clean and clear, but it works in reverse as well, and we lost most of the clams [with a] 99% decline. It’s like taking the filter out of the fish tank.”

Septic systems on Long Island are outdated, with a majority of homeowners on the island having old septic systems. It allows waste to contaminate the groundwater and seeps through the pores, sometimes reaching open water. Professor Gobler expresses how humans can help mitigate the downfall of climate change in our area.

“We are focusing on getting homes to go from essential concrete holes in the ground,” said Gobler. “Now that water goes right to the groundwater. Eventually, that water goes right to the bay. So what we are trying to do is install systems that treat that wastewater before it goes to the ground. So that the nitrogen levels are much lower and we think that would have a good long-term benefit to explain that.”

Some people around the island have been trying to help alleviate the decline of clams throughout the island. Farming clams from start to finish can help restore healthy water on Long Island. These farms are called aquaculture, in which clam farmers help populate the clam population and try to restore cleaner water with the help of clams. 

Sue Wicks, an aquaculture farmer out of Long Island and Rutgers basketball legend, shared her thoughts on what aqua farming actually does.

Climate Change and Rising Sea Levels - How and Where it Affects Long Island
Sue Wicks

“So what we do is aquaculture,” explained Wicks. “It’s 100% sustainable farming to replace the natural oysters that actually no longer exist on the island and so what we do is bring them in from the hatchery after that vulnerable stage. We grow them almost like a rancher would grow their cattle. They filter the water, clean the Water Column and eat what’s in the water and grow and thrive there.”

With some areas experiencing warmer weather than usual, rising sea levels are becoming more of a problem for people living near a cost. The increasingly rapid melting of glaciers is becoming more apparent in areas located below sea level. 

Glaciers are an important factor in allowing equilibrium throughout the ecosystem. Warmer weather increases the rate at which water glaciers melt. Glaciers melt every year, but the problem scientists are finding is that glaciers are melting during the warmer weather but do not replenish the amount of water lost during the colder season. 

In a recent study conducted by NASA, they uncovered that Greenland and Antarctica are home to most of the globe’s glaciers. If all of the glaciers melt, it will result in sea levels increasing to over 200 feet. The increase in sea levels would be catastrophic to those living near a cost. 

Areas around the country, such as New Orleans, have been dealing with climate consequences. Almost half of New Orleans would be under water if all the glaciers in the world melted.

Charles Flagg, a professor at Stony Brook University at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, studied and researched the rising sea levels throughout Long Island.

Climate Change and Rising Sea Levels - How and Where it Affects Long Island

“At this rate, the sea level will rise about a foot and a half by 2050-2060 around the globe,” said Flagg. “If it accelerates, the IPCC reports are talking about a meter by 2100. As the sea level rose, the barrier islands surrounding Long Island became covered creating breaches on barrier islands allowing for sand to come into the land.”

The south shore of Long Island could be in for some drastic changes in the future. The south shore is around five foot over sea level. Scientists have realized that sea levels are increasing around Long Island. But the south shore would reap the downfall of increased water levels.

Without any human intervention, parts of the south shore of Long Island could be overflowed with water. The increased sea levels around the area make it extremely difficult to live around the coast off the south shore. 

To help prevent against this, experts further recommend reducing society’s carbon footprint by lessening waste, be cognizant of gas usage and more. All these small steps help to prevent the earth’s temperature from rising, allowing for less melting and and lower sea levels.

Emmanuel Jaquez

Emmanuel Jaquez

Being a college student is hard, but knowing that hard work will pay off is one of my primary motivations. I earned a journalism associate's degree at Suffolk County Community College. I am currently on track to achieve my bachelor's degree at Stony Brook University by 2022.

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