Effect of the Sea Level Rise in the Indian Ocean on Shipping


The Indian Ocean is the third largest ocean in the world. This ocean has about 20 percent of the water present on the earth’s surface. It touches the boundaries of East Africa on the west, India on the north, Australia on the east, and it also meets the Southern Ocean off the coast of Antarctica in the south.

A big problem has been introduced in the Indian Ocean, and this problem is going to increase rapidly. Actually, the sea level of this ocean is rising unevenly, and this problem is very dangerous for some populated coastal areas and islands.

Organizations that are studying the sea level rise in the Indian Ocean

The study of the sea level rise in the Indian Ocean has been conducted by scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Funding for these studies have been provided by NCAR, the National Science Foundation of NASA, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Affected areas due to the sea level rise in Indian Ocean

The increase in sea level of the Indian Ocean also affects the sea level of the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Due to this, it will affect the coastal areas of the Bay of Bengal, Sri Lanka, the Arabian Sea, Sumatra, and Java. This will increase the monsoon flooding in Bangladesh and India. This will also impact global climate as well. Small islands will tend to struggle to survive.

The Indian Ocean

The causes of Sea level rise in Indian Ocean

  • Temperature increase in Indian Ocean

The main cause of this problem is the increase in temperature. In the past 50 years, the temperature of the indo-pacific warm pool has increased by approximately 1 degree Fahrenheit, or 0.5 degrees Celsius. This is because of emission of greenhouse gases by human actions. The rise in sea level was measured along the coasts of the northern Indian Ocean to be an average of about 13 millimeters per ten years.

  • Wind patterns of the Indian Ocean

Two primary atmospheric wind patterns circulating over the Indian Ocean are the important cause of the sea level rise. These two patterns are called the Hadley Circulation and the Walker Circulation. The Hadley Circulation is controlled by the air currents developed above the highly heated steamy waters. These air currents are present near to equator and are moving poleward at the upper levels. Further, they reach down to the subtropic water areas of the ocean surface. This process forces surface air to flow towards the equator.

The Walker Circulation works just opposite; this causes the development of air currents that move westward at the upper levels. This circulation also goes down to the surface and moves eastward towards the indo-pacific warm pool.

The whole process restricts the waters from spreading equally and increases the sea level of coastal areas of the Indian Ocean.

Some exceptions to sea level rise in Indian Ocean

  • Some coastal areas of the Indian Ocean are not experiencing the sea level drop. For example, the Seychelles Islands and the island of Zanzibar off Tanzania’s coast are showing the highest sea level drop, and this is because of the wind patterns of the Indian Ocean.
  • The sea level around the Maldives is experiencing a negligible sea level rise (but it shows a measurable sea level rise in the winter season).

Effect on shipping

Although, the sea level is rising continuously, it is predicted that this is not likely to affect shipping in the next 50 to 100 years. Afterward, if the sea level continuously rises, then obviously dangerous climate changes will be introduced, which will create big problems for shipping. Increased water in the ocean increases the energy of the ocean, and the increased energy is responsible for an increase in the action of the currents. Therefore, the currents will flow with more speed. A bad climate always creates difficulties for ships. This will also affect travel time, fuel cost, and the ultimate economy of shipping in the region.

Future problems due the sea level rise in Indian Ocean

  • The currents of the Indian Ocean are changing with time, and these currents will have a negative effect to the ecosystem of the coasts.
  • The warmer water around the coasts will reduce the quantity of oxygen. This is one of the most dangerous problems.
  • Small Islands will be affected the most by the rise in sea level.
  • The coasts will suffer flooding problems due to the sea level rise.


The results from these studies indicates that the coasts of Indonesia, Sumatra, and India will suffer a continuous increase in sea level. This will cause climate change and different problems like climate change, floods, worsening monsoons, and food supply problems. Therefore, it is very important to find appropriate remedies for these problems. Governments should create strategies to face this dangerous problem.

Shipping through this ocean will not be affected by the sea level rise in the next 50 to 100 years. This is the only good news for humans that enters the picture.


Image- The Indian Ocean- commons.wikimedia.org