Energy & Environment

NASA: Sea level increase likely on upper end of predictions

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Sea levels have risen an average of 3 inches worldwide since 1992, according to new data from federal researchers, who warned climate change is likely to ensure sea levels will rise at least 3 feet in the future.

Sea level changes vary around the world, NASA scientists said Wednesday: The west coast of the United States has actually seen its sea levels fall, while other parts of the globe have experienced increases of more than 9 inches.

{mosads}NASA researchers analyzed 23 years of sea level satellite data to determine the changes, the agency said.

Climate scientists have long said that climate change will, among other things, lead to rising sea levels around the world. In 2013, United Nations researchers determined that global sea levels would rise between 1 foot and 3 feet by the end of the century.

NASA’s research suggests climate change has likely “locked in” an average sea level increase on the high end of those estimates, the agency said.

“Given what we know now about how the ocean expands as it warms and how ice sheets and glaciers are adding water to the seas, it’s pretty certain we are locked into at least 3 feet of sea level rise, and probably more,” Steve Nerem, the lead scientist of NASA’s Sea Level Change Team, said in a statement. 

“But we don’t know whether it will happen within a century or somewhat longer.”

Scientists blame the sea-level increase on the expansion of warmer ocean water, ice loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and melting mountain glaciers.

NASA said the Greenland ice sheet, an area nearly the size of Alaska, has lost an average of 303 gigatons of ice per year over the last 10 years. 

The massive Antarctic ice sheet is losing more than one-third of that, and NASA called future Antarctic ice loss “the primary unknown” in predicting future sea levels. 

“Some of the signs we see in the satellite data right now are red flags that these glaciers might not be as stable as we once thought,” University of California, Irvine, glacioloist Eric Rignot said in a statement.

“There’s always a lot of attention on the changes we see now, but as scientists our priority needs to be on what the changes could be tomorrow.”

Tags Climate change NASA
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