Rising sea levels may jeopardize internet infrastructure

Jul 19, 2018

Florida Coast Line

Florida Coast Line; Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images


The internet may feel immaterial or even magical, but behind each tweet, ‘like’ and email is a network of data centers and stretches of underground cables — and rising sea levels may put some of that coastal hardware in jeopardy.

That’s the conclusion of a new study, which found that climate change induced sea level rise may endanger some 4,000 miles of fiber-optic cables along the U.S. coasts. Some cables deep in the ocean are built to withstand water, but some of the infrastructure would be damaged by flooding.  

And out of all U.S. coastal cities, the L.A. area has the most long-haul links at risk, nearly 89 fiber-miles.

What exactly does that mean? How is the infrastructure behind the internet set up? And if it were to be damaged by sea level rise, who would be responsible for fixing it?

With guest host Libby Denkmann


Carol Barford, one of the authors on the study and an associate scientist and director of the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

George Varghese, professor of computer science at UCLA

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