Rising sea levels will soon destroy underground US internet cables, scientists warn

Rising sea levels will soon destroy underground US internet cables, scientists warn

Underground internet cables crisscrossing coastal regions will be inundated by rising seas within the next 15 years, according to a new study. Thousands of miles of fibre optic cables are under threat in US cities like New York, Seattle and Miami, and could soon be out of action unless steps are taken to protect them.

"Most of the damage that's going to be done in the next 100 years will be done sooner than later," said Professor Barford, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "That surprised us. The expectation was that we'd have 50 years to plan for it. We don't have 50 years." Most of this infrastructure was constructed around 25 years ago along trails running parallel with highways and coastlines, with no thought given to how geography would alter as the climate changed

The most at-risk stretches of cable were unsurprisingly those already close to sea level, meaning the slight increases predicted for the next few years will be enough to cover them. The researchers estimated that in total more than 4,000 miles of buried fibre optic cable in the US will be submerged by 2033.

Massive underwater internet cables link North America with the rest of the world, and the landing points where these cables end will be submerged “in a short period of time”, according to Professor Barford. While the large transoceanic cables are completely waterproof, the buried smaller fibre optic cables are not and if they are submerged there could be far-reaching impacts not only in the coastal US but potentially around the world.

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