Water Conservation

Accelerating since the 90's - sea level is rising fast, very fast

Rising Sea Levels Accelerating Past 30 Years, Scientists Say

Those who still deny climate change or find themselves on the fence about the extent of the problem should take the time to absorb a new report from team of international scientists.

Rising Sea Levels

The report found that worldwide the rate of rising water has accelerated since the 1990s. In 1993, sea water was rising at the rate of about 2.2 centimeters per year. In 2014, that rate had increased to 3.3 centimeters.

In the last 100 years, the burning of fossil fuels and other natural and human activities have “released enormous amounts of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere,” according to National Geographic, which maintains a webpage on the topic.

This in turn has caused Earth’s temperature to increase, with the oceans rising because they absorb 80 percent of the heat.

New Study Findings

Scientists in China, Australia and the United States participated in the new study. They confirmed what many scientists had suspected – sea levels are rising at an accelerated rate.

They’ve already risen 20 centimeters in the past century.

Researchers working on the report said its findings highlight the urgency of cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions. Millions of homes, businesses and wildlife habitat could be endangered by rising sea levels.

Melting ice in Greenland accounted for 25 percent of the increase in sea levels in 2014, the study found. In 1993, it accounted for just 5 percent.

Paul Wadhams, a professor at the University of Cambridge, said the study “is a major warning to us about the dangers of rising sea levels that will continue for many centuries even after global warming is stopped.”

Factors Causing Rising Sea Levels

Three main factors contribute to rising sea levels.

Thermal expansion. When water absorbs heat, it expands. This means that sea waters rise to occupy more space. That has contributed to about half of the sea level increase in the past 100 years, according to National Geographic.

Melting ice. The glacial ice and polar ice caps have continued to melt at an accelerated rate as temperatures have risen worldwide. The hotter temperatures have led to more ice melting in the summer and less snowfall in the winter and early spring that typically replenishes the ice.

Greenland and West Antarctica. Massive sheets of ice cover both of these land masses. Increased heat has caused both to lose ice through melting, much as with the glaciers and polar ice caps.

Where is all of this leading? No one can know for sure. Some predictions call for almost all the ice in Greenland to melt, which would cause sea levels to rise 23 feet, enough to submerge cities such as London.

Even more conservative models predict a rise of 12 to 38 centimeters, which would have a devastating effect on coastal inhabitants all along the East Coast and Florida in the United States. Also, higher sea levels make the surge from storms that much more devastating.

The new study shows again that leaders worldwide should be taking serious steps to curtail global warming. Whether that happens remains to be seen.

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