Melting ice sheets in Greenland, Antarctica speed up sea level rise

NASA study finds sea level rise may double by 2100

Sea Level soaring accelerates

Even in the very best-case scenarios, we're looking at gaining two feet of average global water level rises over the next 80 years. It could be compared to driver merging onto a highway.

Twenty-five years of satellite data reveal that sea-level rise is increasing rapidly and by the end of the century could be twice as high as some climate models project, a new study finds.

Therefore, scientists now have observed evidence validating climate model projections, as well as providing policy-makers with a "data-driven assessment of sea level change that does not depend on the climate models", Nerem said. Instead, the rate will accelerate by about 0.08mm each year.

To arrive at their number, Professor Nerem and colleagues adjusted the satellite data for short-term factors such as the El Niño/La Niña climate patterns, as well as the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, which caused sea levels to drop just before the launch of the TOPEX satellite. However, Nerem adds "given the large changes we are seeing in the ice sheets today, that's not likely" and the acceleration will increase as Earth continues to heat up and ice sheets melt. Rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere increase the temperature of air and water, which causes sea level to rise in two ways.

The warming of oceans and the melting of ice sheet and glaciers, particularly in Antarctica and Greenland, have contributed to the hastening sea level rise.

If the oceans continue to change at this rate, sea levels will rise 26 inches by the end of the century - enough to cause major problems for coastal cities, according to the study.

"This is nearly certainly a conservative estimate", says one of the team, Steve Nerem from the University of Colorado Boulder.

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Climate change is making our seas rise faster and faster, confirms a new study examining 25 years of data. "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". It also takes into account the effects of volcanoes and changes in temperature resulting from El Nino and La Nina.

Normally, tide-guage data is used to measure sea levels, but this time, satellite data was used to measure sea levels allowing more precise estimates of global sea levels. They also used data from the Grace satellite gravity mission to determine that the acceleration is largely being driven by melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica.

But the process is accelerating, and more than three-quarters of that acceleration since 1993 is due to melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, the study shows.

"The tide gauge measurements are essential for determining the uncertainty in the global mean sea level acceleration estimate", said co-author Gary Mitchum, University of South Florida College of Marine Science.

Now the researchers want to apply the same techniques to a longer period of time, as well as adding in extra measurements from local records, which should help communities prepare for the worst.

By what is presumably a complete coincidence, the funding for the NASA satellites that provide this data is now in danger of being axed as part of the government's current crack-down on various scientific projects.

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