Science

Sea level rise is accelerating

Sea level rise is accelerating

According to a study released Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sea level rise is happening now and will only increase year on year. It could be compared to driver merging onto a highway.

Since 1993 sea levels have been rising by about 3mm a year, meaning they have risen more than 7cm in the last 25 years, but a study by USA researchers has concluded the rise will accelerate.

Other scientists said even small changes in sea levels can lead to flooding and erosion. This acceleration means we'll gain an additional millimeter per year for each of the coming decades, potentially doubling what would happen to the sea level by 2100 if the rate of increase was constant.

In their observation, the researchers took into account the factors that significantly altered the sea levels for several years, like the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines and the annual El Niño and La Niña phenomenon. If there would be drastic changes in the ice sheets, then the projected sea level rise is likely to be higher.

Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere elevate water and air temperatures, which produces sea level rise in two ways.

Leaders in coastal cities from NY to Shanghai are debating how to handle rising sea waters.

Of the 3 inches of sea-level rise in the past quarter century, about 55% is from warmer water expanding, and the rest is from melting ice.

Changes in sea level observed between 1992 and 2014
Changes in sea level observed between 1992 and 2014

"Sixty-five centimeters is probably on the low end for 2100", Nerem said, "since it assumes the rate and acceleration we have seen over the last 25 years continues for the next 82 years".

Driven mostly by melting ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, the oceans are rising more than 0.003 inches faster every year, the researchers claimed. Authorities from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council are constantly observing how sea level rise could impact the region and are planning worst-case scenario projections.

As Steve Nerem, Associate Director of the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research at the University of Colorado Boulder and one of the study's authors, told ThinkProgress, the study's conclusions are based on the assumption that "the ice sheets [will] just continue going along at what they've been doing for the last 25 years".

La NINA and El NINO and (the opposing phases of the El Nino Southern Oscillation, or ENSO) influence ocean temperature and global precipitation patterns. They also used so-called tide gauge data to assess potential errors in the measurements. "The tide gauge measurements are essential for determining the uncertainty in the GMSL (global mean sea level) acceleration estimate", said co-author Gary Mitchum, USF College of Marine Science.

Scientists looked 25 years of satellite data to calculate the levels of Earth's seas.

But the process is accelerating, and more than three-quarters of that acceleration since 1993 is due to melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, the study showed. The 25-year record is just long enough to provide an initial detection of acceleration-the results will become more robust as the Jason-3 and subsequent altimetry satellites lengthen the time series.





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