New research published this Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change demonstrates the connection between the increase in the rate of sea-level rise and ice melt in Greenland and West Antarctica over the past 15 years.
The findings of this study seem to be a reason for concern. According to the Wall Street Journal, the authors object to previous studies which believed that the rate of sea-level rise had increased at a slower pace in recent years. The Australian scientists analyzed data from tidal gauges worldwide along with updated satellite observations showing changes in water levels, as well as subtle shifts in land formations.
Christopher Watson, a University of Tasmania geodesist and co-author of the study, along with colleagues from the university and from Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, after using a new Global Positioning System (GPS) estimates of vertical land movement (VLM) discovered that previous researches had exaggerated the rate of increase that occurred in the 1990s and undervalue the sea-level rise since 1999. So, the researchers came to the conclusion that the global mean sea level (GMSL) rate from 1993 until mid 2014 was systematically reduced from 2.6 to 2.9 mm per year with a deviation of 0.4 mm, slightly less than the previous estimate of 3.2 mm. These measurements agree more with expectations of the U.N.-appointed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“Previously, it was clear that the rate of rise over the past 20 years was roughly double the rate determined over the past century – what was curious was that the rate appeared slower in the last decade relative to the one before,” he said. “That slowing has puzzled scientists because it coincides with an increase in water entering our oceans from Greenland and West Antarctica.”
The corrected GMSL data presents an increase in sea-level rise, in antithesis to the previous reported slowing in the rate over the past two decades. These new findings also show a connection between the accelerated loss of ice from Greenland and recent estimates of the rate of sea level.
“Unlike the previous slowing, an estimate of acceleration is striking in that it is consistent with the projections of future sea level published by the IPCC,” Watson told CBS News. “Rising sea levels will place increasing stress on the coastal zone – inundation events will become more frequent and adaptation will need to occur. Agencies need to fully consider the impact of accelerating sea level and plan accordingly.”
The results of this study are crucial for communities all around the world. According to the IPCC estimates, at current rates of warming, global sea levels could rise by as much as three feet by the end of the century.
“The projections reduce to a rise of between 28 and 61 cm if we follow paths that include very stringent mitigation of global emissions,” said John Church, a study co-author and member of the Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.