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Sea level rise is accelerating and its rate could double in next century

By: NASA
February 13, 2018 Updated: February 13, 2018 at 3:11 pm
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photo - Flooding is frequent in the mudflats north of Manila in the Philippines, where the city has expanded due to rising population. Sea level rise threatens many such low-lying areas around the world. 
(PHOTOGRAPH BY GEIRGE STEINMETZ, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE)
Flooding is frequent in the mudflats north of Manila in the Philippines, where the city has expanded due to rising population. Sea level rise threatens many such low-lying areas around the world. (PHOTOGRAPH BY GEIRGE STEINMETZ, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE) 

Global sea level rise has been accelerating in recent decades, rather than increasing steadily, according to a new study based on 25 years of NASA and European satellite data.

This acceleration, driven mainly by increased melting in Greenland and Antarctica, has the potential to double the total sea level rise projected by 2100 when compared to projections that assume a constant rate of sea level rise, according to lead author Steve Nerem. Nerem is a professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, a fellow at Colorado's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), and a member of NASA's Sea Level Change team.

If the rate of ocean rise continues to change at this pace, sea level will rise 26 inches (65 centimeters) by 2100 -- enough to cause significant problems for coastal cities, according to the new assessment by Nerem and colleagues from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; CU Boulder; the University of South Florida in Tampa; and Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. The team, driven to understand and better predict Earth’s response to a warming world, published their work Feb. 12 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This is almost certainly a conservative estimate," Nerem said. "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."

Read the full story at NASA.gov.

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