Teacher’s Questions for Watching Our Seas Rise


Before reading:

  1. Does sea level hold steady, or does it rise and fall? In the past few hundred years, do you think it has risen overall, or fallen overall?
  2. Can you think of a few reasons why sea level would rise or fall over hundreds of years?

During reading:

  1. Describe the Jason-2 satellite: Where does it operate, what does it do and how does it do this.
  2. Explain two reasons why sea level is rising.
  3. According to Jason-2’s data, how much is sea level currently rising each year?
  4. What impact will this increase in sea level have on coastal cities in the next 50 to 100 years?
  5. Where do corals grow? What does the location of ancient coral remains found by scientists tell us about sea level in the past?
  6.  Why is sea level lower during an ice age than in between ice ages?
  7.  How did scientist Bruce Douglas measure sea level change in the 1980s and 1990s? What was the weakness of this measurement method?
  8. Is sea level change the same across the oceans, or does it vary place to place?
  9. What is El Niño? How does it affect sea level?
  10. What is the “big question” for scientists who study sea level?
  11. Explain how ancient Roman fishponds have helped answer the big question.
  12. Describe Meltwater Pulse 1A.
  13. How much is sea level predicted to rise by 2100? What does this tell us about how the current rate of rise is predicted to change?
  14. How many people are predicted to be affected by even a 1-meter sea level rise?
  15. Describe storm surges and why an increase in sea level will make them more damaging to coastal cities.
  16. What is subsidence? List a few cities that are already dealing with problems caused by subsidence.

After reading:

  1. Sea level rise was much higher at times in the past. So why are scientists especially concerned about a return to such high levels? Hint: What type of people inhabited Earth 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, and how has the size and type of communities that they live in changed?
  2. Do you think that scientists’ estimates for future sea level rise could increase or decrease in the future, based on new evidence not available now? Explain your answer.


1. Do you live in or vacation at a coastal city, or have a relative or friend who lives in one? How do you think that city will be impacted by rising sea level in the future? Can you think of things that people in that city, or even people elsewhere, could do to reduce this impact or prepare for it?