Satellite observations show sea levels rising, and climate change is accelerating it


A new study has revealed that sea level rise is real and is accelerating at an alarming rate.

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.

Basically, he said, the study "has a major caveat that [it assumes that] sea level continues to change into the future at the same rate and acceleration of change as the last 25 years". He further said that their estimations are certainly conservative.

While other researchers have used tide gauge data to evaluate the acceleration in global sea-level rise, they have struggled to identify other important details from this information including changes over the past couple of decades stemming from more active ice sheet melting.

Airborne campaigns such as Operation IceBridge and JPL's Oceans Melting Greenland gather measurements of ice sheets and glaciers, while computer modeling research improves our understanding of how Antarctica and Greenland will respond in a warming climate.

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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.

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Such rises are feared to be likely to cause "significant difficulties" for coastal cities and low-lying regions, especially once storm surges are taken into consideration.

As the study notes, one of the main causes behind the accelerating sea level rise is the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica - and this is one of the biggest variables that will impact how quickly the seas will continue to rise. The scientists, who used last 25 years of satellite data to make this observation, say the acceleration in sea level increase can be seen as something similar to a "driver merging onto a highway".

This so-called "thermal expansion" of the oceans has already contributed about half of the seven centimetres of average global sea level rise in the past quarter century, Nerem said. Second, melting land-ice flows into the ocean, heightening sea levels.

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

Another caveat: this assessment did not account for sea level changes from other factors, including the climate phenomena known as El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which affects ocean temperatures and precipitation, and the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.

At present, folks might dismiss rising sea levels because they don't notice any changes. Research had previously suggested that sea levels were not only rising but rising faster and faster. "As we get longer and longer time series there will be better estimates of this acceleration", Nerem said.