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article imageNASA tool will help coastal cities plan for rising ocean levels

By Karen Graham     Dec 2, 2017 in Science
With rising sea levels being one of the most noticeable results of climate change, being able to locate and pinpoint which glaciers and ice sheets are contributing to local sea level rises will be very helpful in how we prepare for the future.
With recent evidence indicating the Greenland ice sheet is likely to melt faster in the years to come, despite a recent slowdown, being able to project when and where destructive coastal inundation could occur in your city just became easier.
While most of us realize that Greenland and Antarctica are probably far from where we may live in San Francisco, London, or Miami Beach, melting glaciers and ice sheets in these far away regions are expected to create sea level rises that will change many of the world's coastlines.
Glacier Canyons in NW Greenland.
Glacier Canyons in NW Greenland.
NASA
This is because different glacial systems will affect different cities around the globe to varying degrees, dependent on where and how much different glaciers feed water into the ocean, and where that water flows\, according to new research from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
"Ice sheets are so heavy, that when they melt, the gravity field is modified, and the ocean is less attracted to the ice mass," Eric Larour, one of the study's authors, told Business Insider. "This means that locally, close to the ice change itself, sea level will decrease." So for cities like Halifax, Canada, there will be a decrease in ocean levels.
The gradient of sea level rise near New York City with respect to ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sh...
The gradient of sea level rise near New York City with respect to ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet. Red indicates a larger impact on NYC local sea level rise.
NASA/JPL
Virtual Earth System Laboratory (VESL)
To make it easier for governments, city planners, and other interested parties to pinpoint and better understand which icy areas will contribute to sea level rise in the coming decades/centuries, NASA has created VESL, a tool that takes into account the rotation of the Earth and gravitational effects, which help to determine how specific melting points will impact certain cities globally.
The research into the development of VESL was published in the journal Science Advances and is available online. Developed by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the interactive platform provides the public with a taste of how NASA models important Earth processes.
This forward model captures the response to thickness changes in all of the main glaciated areas of ...
This forward model captures the response to thickness changes in all of the main glaciated areas of the world (including, among others, Alaskan and Canadian Arctic Glaciers, Himalayan Glaciers, Patagonia Glaciers, and the Greenland and Antarctica Ice Sheets), hence representing a truly global “ice” fingerprint.
NASA/JPL
The tool or simulator is the real deal, too. It is not just a simplified version of a model or a menu of preexisting results. It is direct access to the complex, number-crunching model itself, though with limited scenarios and factors that can be adjusted. For example, you can melt the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and trace rising seas as they inundate the Florida coast.
"It's the real software, being used on the fly, live, without being prerecorded or precomputed," said Larour of JPL, who led VESL's development. "You have access to a segment of an ice sheet model or sea level model, running NASA's software." Larour adds, "A key to making the interface tool work is cloud computing. Instead of burdening your own computer with heavy demand, "you can access a JPL cloud to run big simulations."
You can find VESL by going to: https://vesl.jpl.nasa.gov/
More about NASA, VESL, glacier melt, Sea level rise, Technology