From: Rutgers University
Published January 20, 2015 08:23 AM

Rutgers study shows sea level rising faster than thought

Global sea-level has been rising about 2.5 times faster during the past 20 years than it has for the preceding eight decades of the 20th century, according to a newly published study in the journal Nature.


Researchers at Rutgers and Harvard universities found that between 1901 and 1990 sea-level rose at a rate of about 1.2 millimeters per year, compared to about 1.5 millimeters as calculated in earlier estimates. The scientists say that sea levels are now rising at a rate of 3 millimeters every year.

The new research, “Probabilistic Reanalysis of 20th-century Sea-level Rise,” takes a new look at global tide gauge data. Using a combination of computer modeling and statistical analysis, the researchers sought to close data gaps in accounting for the sources of sea-level rise.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the international group charting the Earth’s climate trends – has come up short in fully explaining the source of new water flows to the oceans in past decades.

Over the past century, mountain glacier meltwater from the continents was a big source for sea- level change, the Rutgers-Harvard team said. But calculations taken after 1993 represent another sign that Greenland and Antarctica ice cap melting is driving the changes now.

“In the last 20 years we’re looking at significant contributions from Greenland and Antarctica,” where ice melt is driving the higher rate, said Carling Hay, a postdoctoral fellow with both Rutgers and Harvard universities and corresponding author on the Nature paper.

New Jersey is on the front line of that change because sea level is rising faster along the East Coast of the United States. “The global rate of sea-level change is important, but what really affects coastal communities is the regional change,” Hay said.

Beach and sand dunes image via Shutterstock.

Read more at Rutgers University.

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