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Years of Data Shows We Missed Something Important About Sea Level Rise

15 February 2018

Global sea levels are rising at a rapid rate and could be another two feet higher by the end of the century compared to 2005 levels, a study based on 25 years of satellite data shows. He further said that their estimations are certainly conservative.

But that figure, which is broadly in line with climate modelling, is likely to be a conservative estimate of global mean sea level rise in the future, said Professor Nerem. Provided the huge alterations we are observing in the ice sheets today, that is not likely.

If the rate of change continues at this pace, global mean sea levels will rise 61 centimetres between now and 2100.

Again, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet was put forward as the primary cause of this acceleration.

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The past annual rate of sea level rise - about three millimetres (0.1 inches) per year - may more than triple to 10mm per year by 2100, said the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a peer-reviewed U.S. journal.

Two feet of sea level rise by the end of the century "would have big effects on places like Miami and New Orleans, but I don't still view that as catastrophic" because those cities can survive - at great expense - that amount of rising seas under normal situations, Nerem said.

"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. According to the European Environment Agency, the Greenland ice sheeting melting from 1992 to 2015 has contributed to global sea level rise by an approximately 10 millimeters. According to the research, based on 25 years of satellite data, that pace has quickened, mainly due to the melting of massive ice sheets.

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Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann, who was not involved with the study, told CNN that "it confirms what we have long feared: that the sooner-than-expected ice loss from the west Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets is leading to acceleration in sea level rise sooner than was projected". Second, melting land ice flows into the ocean, also increasing sea level across the globe, he said.

Co-author of the study, John Fasullo, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research said that their study highlights the important role that can be played by satellite records in validating climate model projections.

Global sea levels can also be affected by climate patterns like El Nino and La Nina, the opposing periods of the El Nino Southern Oscillation which impact global precipitation patterns and ocean temperatures. 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.

Nerem and his team took into account natural changes in sea level thanks to cycles such as El Niño/La Niña and even events such as the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, which altered sea levels worldwide for several years.

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Years of Data Shows We Missed Something Important About Sea Level Rise