I've seen both in newspapers when it comes to the subject of global warming. Confusingly, "rising sea levels" seems to be used more frequently. For me, it's much easier to understand "rising sea level", an uncountable noun used to describe a concept of the rising sea, than to imagine it as a countable noun, "sea levels." How does "rising sea levels" even mean? Aren't all the seas that would be affected by the melting of the glaciers connected with each other in a way? How can their "levels" be separated from each other when the amount of water in seas on the earth rises?

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    Not all seas are at the same level. The Atlantic at one end of the Panama Canal is eight inches higher than the Pacific at the other end. Also there are different levels at different times due to tides, so yes there are multiple levels, but his is a language question right?
    – Neil W
    May 21, 2014 at 12:34
  • Yes, it's definitely a language question, and just because it's a language question, I have issues every time when I need to express "rising sea level(s)". I'd naturally go for "rising sea level," but at the same, I'd dither a bit because it seems that "rising sea levels" is used more commonly, and I'd be worried that I was grammatically wrong.
    – JJcat
    May 21, 2014 at 12:42
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    Both are correct. Sea levels differ both geographically as well as with time. Context will determine the noun's number.
    – Kris
    May 21, 2014 at 12:57
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    If you think that's confusing, just try discussing how rising sea levels might mean lower seal levels! May 21, 2014 at 14:11
  • You say 'For me, it's much easier to understand "rising sea level", an uncountable noun used to describe a concept of the rising sea.' However, sea levels are measured at chosen times and places, so the individual measures will be the primary data. Thus 'sea level' will in the first instance be a shortened form of 'measure of the level of the sea'. The non-count version must be a notional averaged phenomenon, which I'd say is harder to understand. Perhaps we've seen too many exaggerated computer graphics. Good question, though. May 21, 2014 at 18:28

1 Answer 1


Rising sea levels is factually correct, even if counter-intuitive.

As long as (the incorrect) "rising sea level" does not have clear and obvious grammatical superiority, the (correct) plural should be used.

See the Wikipedia article, especially the section showing factors which change Sea Level in a locality, for some ways to overcome your intuitive (and incorrect) idea that Sea Level is the same everywhere.

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