Rising sea levels could sink Internet access for millions of users

If current forecasts of rising sea levels come true, seawater will submerge thousands of miles of Internet cables and sabotage Internet access for users everywhere, a report warns.
By Rick Docksai | Aug 20, 2018
Millions of Internet users could lose Internet access within the next 15 years due to rising sea levels, warns a new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and University of Oregon. The study noted that thousands of miles of fiber-optic cables are located along the world's coastlines and are at risk of being engulfed by seawater by 2033 if current forecasts of sea-level rise brought on by global warming come true.

"Climate change-related sea level incursions could have a devastating impact on Internet communication infrastructure even in the relatively short term," the report states.

The report combines sea-level rise projects by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with data of physical Internet infrastructures across the globe from the Internet Atlas. It finds that water levels could engulf around 4,067 miles of fiber conduit and 1,101 data centers and connection points over the next 15 years, wrecking Internet operability across coastlines and throughout such densely populated coastal cities as Miami, New York City, and Seattle.

Fiber-optic cables can withstand some heavy rainfall and adverse weather, but they are not waterproof. Study authors Paul Barford, Carol Barford, and Ramakrishnan Durairaian wrote that these cable networks are "not designed to be under water permanently."

Even more cable damage could arise from severe storms, the authors added. They noted that major network disruptions occurred during recent mega-storms such as hurricanes Katrina and Sandyand researchers expect more storms like these as climate change unfolds.

Internet users further inland wouldn't be safe, either. The report warns that damage to these cables would compromise Internet access potentially all across the globe.



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