Thursday 29th September 2016                 Change text size:

Sea level rise accelerates, say scientists



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Sea level rises across the planet have been accelerating over the past two decades, not declining as previously thought.

A new study has found that sea level rise has accelerated in recent decades, countering claims that total sea level rise is lower than previously estimated.

Previous research had predicted that over the past 20 years, the rate at which sea levels were rising had slowed down, but the new study suggests a rise of between 2.6 and 2.9mm per year between 1993 and 2010.

The study vindicates the claims of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which said that sea level rise was speeding up, despite records indicating the opposite. A glitch in satellite had led to inaccurate records suggesting that sea level rise was slowing down.

The study, which was published in the journal Nature Climate Change, says that this acceleration could be an indirect result of ice sheets in West Antarctica and Greenland melting.

Lead researcher Dr Christopher Watson said, “The thing that was really puzzling us was that the last decade of sea level rise was marginally slower, ever so subtly slower, than the decade before it”.

“We see acceleration, and what I find striking about that is the fact that it’s consistent with the projections of sea level rise published by the IPCC. Sea level rise is getting faster. We know it’s been getting faster over the last two decades than its been over the 20th century and its getting faster again”.

Antarctica ice shelves have seen “substantial” losses, with some areas experiencing as much as 18% decreases in the last 18 years alone. It is estimated that ice within West Antarctica could be reduced by 50% within the next 200 years if current melt rates continue.

Further reading:

Antarctica ice shelves see ‘substantial’ loss in last two decades, finds study

Research finds Antarctic ice thicker than previously thought

International tensions as talks to protect Antarctica begin

Antarctic sea levels rising above global average

Antarctic winds could accelerate sea level rise


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