Global sea level rising at faster rate, study says

Terry Joseph
February 16, 2018

"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". The research, based on 25 years of satellite data, shows that pace has quickened, mainly from the melting of massive ice sheets.

Experts have long said warming temperatures are heating ocean waters and melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

Steve Nerem, a professor of aerospace engineering sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder and lead author on the paper, described the phenomena as akin to a "driver merging onto a highway", in a press release accompanying the paper.

Sea ice as seen from NASA's Operation IceBridge research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region, on November 4, 2017, above Antarctica.

Melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are speeding up the already fast pace of sea level rise, new satellite data shows.

These so-called eyes on the Earth revealed that sea level rise is not steadily rising at 0.1 inch every year, but rather, that increase is increasing, itself-by 0.003 inches each year. Second is the melting of ice at poles that adds more and more water to the seas. Storm surges and salt water intrusion into aquifers where some communities get their drinking water are just two examples.

This means that global sea levels projected for the end of the century would be 26 inches or even more, the exact double of what it could have been if the rate of increase would have been steady.

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But, Nerem said, "this is nearly certainly a conservative estimate".

Both ice sheets have been losing large amounts of ice at an increasing rate since 1992.

A couple waits for the sunset by the tetrapods on November 6, 2016, in Male, Maldives.

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. "It also demonstrates the importance of climate models in interpreting satellite records, such as in our work where they allow us to estimate the background effects of the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo on global sea level", said Fasullo. According to Anny Cazavene, director of Earth Science at International Space Science Institute in France, the sea level rise can a better gauge of climate change in action as compared to rising temperature.

In 2018, NASA will launch two new satellite missions that will be critical to improving future sea level projections: the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission, a partnership with GeoForschungsZentrum (GFZ) in Germany, will continue measurements of the mass of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets; while the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) will make highly accurate observations of the elevation of ice sheets and glaciers.

"[Our study] is much more simplistic, but it's kind of providing a check on those model projections", he explained.

Greenland has caused three times more sea-level rise than Antarctica so far, but ice melt on the southern continent is responsible for more of the acceleration.

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