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article imageSea-level rise along East Coast of US is fastest in 2,000 years

By Karen Graham     Mar 26, 2021 in Environment
The rate of sea-level rise in the 20th century along much of the U.S. Atlantic coast was the fastest in 2,000 years, and southern New Jersey had the fastest rates, according to a new study.
In a new study led by Rutgers University and published in the journal Nature Communications on March 23, 2021, it was found that "the global rise in sea-level from melting ice and warming oceans from 1900 to 2000 led to a rate that's more than twice the average for the years 0 to 1800 -- the most significant change."
Using new techniques and focusing on six specific locations along the East Coast (in Connecticut, New York City, New Jersey and North Carolina), researchers were able to look at the phenomena that contributed to sea-level change in the past 2,000 years.
To do this assessment, the researchers, for the first time, used a "sea-level budget" while determining the rate at which the ocean is rising over an extensive period.
On August 2  2004  flood peaks were the highest ever recorded at six USGS stream gaging stations in ...
On August 2, 2004, flood peaks were the highest ever recorded at six USGS stream gaging stations in Burlington and Camden Counties N.J.
USGS
Balancing the sea-level budget
Having a sea-level budget enhances our understanding of the processes that drive sea-level change. A sea-level budget examines the change in sea level over time at global, regional, and local scales. These scales can reflect different factors that contribute to the rising water levels, or in some cases falling levels.
By measuring the ocean’s temperature, salinity, mass, and surface height, the relative sources of recent sea-level rise can be discerned. With these observations, sea-level change is determined in terms of total sea level and its two major components, ocean mass and steric (density-related) sea level.
The sea-level budget is closed when the sum of the independent components agrees with measurements of total sea level, indicating that the observations can be used to interpret the causes of sea-level change. So, you can see why a budget can be so effective in determining the impact of global warming.
"If you want to know what's driving the sea-level change, this budget approach is a way to break down those individual components," said Jennifer Walker, the lead author of this study and a post-doctoral researcher at Rutgers University, according to Science Daily.
"By learning how different processes vary over time and contribute to sea-level change, we can more accurately estimate future contributions at specific sites."
And what the researchers found was that the rising levels at the six specific locations did succeed any falls over the time period examined. "Regional land sinking (subsidence) was the dominant component of sea-level change on those long timescales," explained Walker.
Proxy sea-level records in the Common Era sea-level database  where new sites updated from Kemp et a...
Proxy sea-level records in the Common Era sea-level database, where new sites updated from Kemp et al.16 are shown in red.
Walker, J.S., Kopp, R.E., Shaw, T.A. et al.
South New Jersey has the fastest rates
Southern New Jersey had the fastest rates over the 2,000-year period: 1.6 millimeters a year (about 0.63 inches per decade) at Edwin Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Leeds Point, in Atlantic County and 1.5 millimeters a year (about 0.6 inches per decade) at Cape May Court House, Cape May County.
New Jersey's land subsidence is due to the lasting effects of the retreating "Laurentide ice sheet from our last Ice Age," Walker told CNN. "The ice sheet retreated thousands of years ago, and the land is still readjusting from the effect of that past sheet." There are other factors involved, too, including changing ocean currents and extraction of groundwater.
"US East Coast sea level rise rates are elevated because of the slowing Gulf Stream," said Brian McNoldy, a senior research associate at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, who was not part of the study.
Other sites included in the study were the East River Marsh in Guilford, Connecticut; Pelham Bay, The Bronx, New York City; Cheesequake State Park in Old Bridge, New Jersey; and Roanoke Island in North Carolina.
More about sealevel rise, us east coast, 20th Century, southern New Jersey, anthrogenic climate change
 
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