Sci-tech

Climate change speeding up sea level rise, satellites show

Climate change speeding up sea level rise, satellites show

Researchers observed a 2.8-inch rise in sea levels since 1993, but said the rate was not constant at.1 inches per year, and predicted the rate to increase by.39 inches per year.

"We are already seeing signs of ice sheet instability in Greenland and Antarctica, so if they experience rapid changes, then we would likely see more than 65 centimeters of sea level rise by 2100".

A study attributes the accelerated rise in sea levels to the melting in Greenland and Antarctica. But, that number "is nearly certainly a conservative estimate of future sea level change", Nerem said.

Climate change is accelerating the sea level rise.

Rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere increase the temperature of air and water, which causes sea level to rise in two ways.

Using satellite data rather than tide-gauge data that is normally used to measure sea levels allows for more precise estimates of global sea level since it provides measurements of the open ocean.

"This study highlights the important role that can be played by satellite records in validating climate model projections", said John Fasullo, a climate scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research.

Satellite data is vital to this research, said Nerem.

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.

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Outside scientists said even small changes in sea levels can lead to flooding and erosion.

"This is a game-changer as far as the climate change discussion goes."

Scientists used satellite data to pinpoint acceleration of sea level rise over 25 years, beginning in 1993.

Professor Church said the Antarctic was contributing more to acceleration than previous estimates. "I mean, we still have other measurements but those measurements have a lot bigger errors, it's a lot harder to tell what's going on, and so it's critical to have the satellite measurements and really I think everybody needs to put in a plug for the satellites so that NASA continues to give us these observations".

He also says that his models are extremely conservative, as he didn't consider any major events such as the collapse of important ice sheets or accelerating global warming.

The Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are the two most massive glacial land ice on Earth. Future research will focus on refining the results in this study with longer time series, and extending the results to regional sea level, so they can better predict what will happen in your backyard.

NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory passes Antarctica's tallest peak, Mount Vinson (4,892 metres), during a flight over the continent to measure changes in the ice sheet.

By what is presumably a complete coincidence, the funding for the NASA satellites that provide this data is now in danger of being axed as part of the government's current crack-down on various scientific projects.

The rather steady sea level rise observed to date, just starting to accelerate, has already proven disruptive in many US coastal areas.


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