A new study regarding the rate of sea level rise shows that the rise of ocean levels may be accelerating faster than the steady increase that was previously assumed, and may result in double the height of sea levels previously projected for the end of the century.
Previous studies made their projections based on a constant rate of sea level rise, but according to study lead Steve Nerem, professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, the acceleration of ice melt in Antarctica and Greenland is also accelerating the effect on the amount of water being added to the sea.
Nerem’s new projections call for a 65 centimeter, or 26 inch, rise in sea levels by 2100–that’s over two feet in just 80 years–that will cause major problems for coastal populations and infrastructure. Nerem also warns that he feels that they’re low-balling with this estimate.
"This is almost certainly a conservative estimate," according to Nerem. "Our extrapolation assumes that sea level continues to change in the future as it has over the last 25 years. Given the large changes we are seeing in the ice sheets today, that’s not likely."
This new study made use of over a quarter-century of data gathered by numerous satellites that map ocean surface topography, and employed new climate models to eliminate sea level variations that can be caused by volcanic eruptions and El Niño and La Niña effects. But despite having to make major adjustments to single out the effects caused by ice melt, study co-author and NASA Goddard satellite data analyst Brian Beckley says that the dataset they have available to them provides an increasingly accurate picture of what’s happening.
"As this climate data record approaches three decades, the fingerprints of Greenland and Antarctic land-based ice loss are now being revealed in the global and regional mean sea level estimates."