Published: Thu, February 15, 2018
Science | By Eileen Rhodes

Fears that sea levels will be rising 1cm a year by 2100

Fears that sea levels will be rising 1cm a year by 2100

And according to a new report by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, not only are the oceans continuing to rise, but the pace of that change is increasing, meaning that the effect could be more grave than we thought. The rate of sea level rise in the satellite era has risen from about 0.1 inch (2.5 millimeters) per year in the 1990s to about 0.13 inches (3.4 millimeters) per year today.

A study using satellite data found that not only are sea levels rising - but the rate is accelerating. That's changing, Nerem said.

Continuous emissions of greenhouse gases are warming the Earth's atmosphere and oceans and melting its ice, causing the rate of sea level rise to increase. "As this climate data record approaches three decades, the fingerprints of Greenland and Antarctic land-based ice loss are now being revealed in the global and regional mean sea level estimates".

"The acceleration predicted by the models has now been detected directly from the observations", Mitchum said.

Sea levels have been recorded by a series of four satellites, starting with the 1992 launch of the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite, in addition to long-term data captured by tidal gauges. They also used data from the Grace satellite gravity mission to determine that the acceleration is largely being driven by melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica. The results reveal that sea level rise has been accelerating for the past 25 years, rather than steadily rising the same amount each year.

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Commenting on the study, Andrea Dutton, an assistant professor and fellow at the Florida Climate Institute at the University of Florida who wasn't involved in this research, said there's an important statement included in the study that shouldn't be ignored: "The probability that the acceleration is actually zero is less than 1 percent". In addition, global sea level can fluctuate due to climate patterns such as El Ninos and La Ninos (the opposing phases of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation), which influence ocean temperature and global precipitation patterns.

The study group had used climate models to account for the volcanic effects and other datasets to determine the ENSO effects, ultimately uncovering the underlying sea-level rate and acceleration over the last quarter century. "For example, the Tampa Bay area has been identified as one of 10 most vulnerable areas in the world to sea level rise and the increasing rate of rise is of great concern".

Nerem also claimed this acceleration is primarily being propelled by melting occurring in Greenland and Antarctica.

"These findings support the modeled projections", he said. Lastly, they hope that this global data can be used at a local level, so that satellite data can be used to predict what will happen in your backyard.

Extreme water levels, such as high tides and surges from strong storms, would be made exponentially worse as climate change plays its consequential tricks. However, detecting acceleration - even over a long period of time - is hard.

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