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article imageSea levels are rising three times faster than previously thought

By Karen Graham     May 24, 2017 in Environment
New scientific analysis has found that the Earth's ocean levels are rising nearly three times faster than they were before 1990, a strong indication that sea level rise is accelerating.
Led by Sönke Dangendorf, a researcher with the University of Siegen in Germany, scientists at institutions in Spain, France, Norway and the Netherlands reexamined sea level rise measurements from around the globe and found that since 1990, sea level rise has tripled in speed.
The research was published in the online journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) May 22, 2017, and while this is not the first study to find the rate of sea level rise is increasing, it is the first to describe the acceleration now being observed, according to the UK's Independent.
In February 2016, Digital Journal reported on a study that found that sea levels rose faster in the 20th century than at any time in the preceding 2,700 years, and the rise in sea levels has been even faster in the last two decades. The study, "Temperature-driven global sea-level variability in the Common Era," was published in the journal Proceedings of the national Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on February 11, 2016.
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The story behind the research
Before the advent of satellites and the technologies that allow us to get accurate measurements, sea level measurements were literally all over the place, writes the Grist. Scientists relied on historic records from sea gauge readings that were often localized and did not reflect changes in the overall global levels.
The researchers also took into consideration local rising and sinking of land, gravitational effects on the water, as well as local weather events and other factors. This is why satellite data is such a big help to scientists today in looking at the overall picture of sea level rise. And while we have precise records going back to the 1990s, reconstructing records before that time took a lot of work.
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But, here is what the research team found - Before 1990, the global sea-level rose about 0.42 inches per decade. Then from 1993 to 2012, global sea level started rising 1.22 inches every decade — or at triple the speed. Dangendorf believes the faster rate is likely due to new meltwater from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets plus the thermal expansion of the warming ocean itself.
“Sea levels will continue to rise over the coming century, no matter whether we will adapt or not, but I think we can limit at least a part of the sea level rise. It will further accelerate, but how much is related to how we act as humans,” Dangendorf said.
More about Sea levels, acceleration, meltwaters, Global warming, 20th Century
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