Sea level rise is accelerating, confirms study

NASA reports New Study shows Global Sea Level Rise has Accelerated over past 25 years

"This acceleration, driven mainly by accelerated melting in Greenland and Antarctica, has the potential to double the total sea level rise by 2100 as compared to projections that assume a constant rate-to more than 60 cm instead of about 30", said Nerem.

Nerem is a professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, a fellow at Colorado's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), and a member of NASA's Sea Level Change team.

As per a new assessment based on 25 years of satellite data, the global sea level is not rising at a steady rate; it is accelerating a little every year.

Sea level rise of 65 cm would cause significant problems for coastal cities around the world.

NASA reports New Study shows Global Sea Level Rise has Accelerated over past 25 years

"This estimate is useful for understanding how the Earth is responding to warming, and thus better informs us of how it might change in the future", write the researchers in their published paper. "This is nearly certainly a conservative estimate", said lead author Steve Nerem, noting that their estimate does not include any unforeseeable factors that could bring a major change in sea level.

Rising sea levels, which menace coastal populations and infrastructure, are one of the most visible threats of climate change. "Given the large changes we are seeing in the ice sheets today, that is not likely", he added.

Often, climate models, such as those for sea level rise, include multiple curves on a graph showing the different types of scenarios - at the lowest end, the smallest rate of increase, and at the highest end a curve showing the most extreme case of global warming.

These increases were measured using satellite altimeter measurements since 1992, including the US/European TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1, Jason-2, and Jason-3 satellite missions. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the USA portion of these missions for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. 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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Changes in the sea level rise can result to more flooding and erosion. "The ice sheets are contributing measurably to this acceleration", he said. Over this short time period, the rate of sea level rise waxed and wane and it was hard to tease out whether its pace was steady or picking up.

Nerem and his team used climate models to account for the volcanic effects and other datasets to determine the El Nino/La Nina effects, ultimately uncovering the underlying rate and acceleration of sea level rise over the last quarter century. "And they find that it has accelerated over this time period since 1993 when we first started measuring sea level using these satellites". Satellite data revealed that the acceleration stems from melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica.

But when a storm hits like 2012's Superstorm Sandy, sea level rise on top of storm surge can lead to record-setting damages, researchers said. A second part of the study used satellite data tracking tiny fluctuations in gravity due toice mass loss to trace the acceleration back to melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica.

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