San Andreas Fault, photo by Don Barrett (Flickr CC)

The seminal California hardcore punk band Youth Brigade sang “I’ll sink with California when it falls into the sea” way back in the 1980s. And they weren’t singing about sea level rise or climate change, but seismic activity that will eventually cause a large portion of the Golden State to break off along fault lines like the famed San Andrea. What residents have long referred to as “the Big One”, meaning a massive earthquake, could result in parts of California “drifting” into the ocean and becoming submerged.

Something like that, anyway. Read a better, more detailed explanation here.

But sea level rise due to climate change compounds this eventuality. Moreover, California’s “sinking feeling” means sea level rise is more pronounced than in other places. Other contributing factors like  El Niño and melting glaciers to the north only make matters worse.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Coastal California could see serious damage from storms within a few decades, especially in low-lying areas of Southern California and the Bay Area. San Francisco International Airport, for instance, could flood if the sea rises a little more than a foot, a mark expected to be reached in the next few decades. Erosion could cause coastal cliffs to retreat more than 100 feet by 2100, according to the report.

This information is according to a new report by the National Research Council California, which predicts that sea levels could rise by as much as 1ft in 20 years time, 2 ft by 2050 and up to 5.5  ft by the 2100, compared to the global average of 9 in, 1.5 ft  4.5 ft, respectively.

Things could be even worse, California being California.

The report is quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle:

However, an earthquake of magnitude 8 or larger in this region could cause sea level to rise suddenly by an additional meter (3 feet) or more” beyond those estimates.

The San Francisco Bay area and many other coastal cities like Newport Beach are at particular risk due to their low altitudes. Most of the risk comes from storm surges, high tides and big waves.