Twenty-five years of satellite data prove climate models are correct in predicting that sea levels will rise at an increasing rate.
In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that since 1993, ocean waters have moved up the shore by almost 1 millimeter per decade. That’s on top of the 3-millimeter steady annual increase. This acceleration means we’ll gain an additional millimeter per year for each of the coming decades, potentially doubling what would happen to the sea level by 2100 if the rate of increase was constant.
“The acceleration predicted by the models has now been detected directly from the observations. I think this is a game-changer as far as the climate change discussion goes,” said co-author Gary Mitchum, Ph.D., associate dean and professor at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science. “For example, the Tampa Bay area has been identified as one of 10 most vulnerable areas in the world to sea level rise and the increasing rate of rise is of great concern.”
Dr. Mitchum is part of a team led by University of Colorado Boulder Professor Steve Nerem, Ph.D., that used statistical analysis to enhance previous studies based on tide gauge data, which have also suggested acceleration over the last century. However, satellites give a better view of sea level rise, because samples are collected over the open ocean, rather than just along the coastline.
Experts have long said warming temperatures are heating ocean waters and melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. As it continues, the next generation will experience a far different landscape than it does today.
Reference: “Climate-change–driven accelerated sea-level rise detected in the altimeter era” by R. S. Nerem, B. D. Beckley, J. T. Fasullo, B. D. Hamlington, D. Masters and G. T. Mitchum, 12 February 2018, PNAS.