Watery world: sea level rising 60 percent faster than predicted

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
November 28, 2012



Hurricane Sandy storm surge on the New Jersey shore. Photo by: Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/U.S. Air Force/New Jersey National Guard.
Hurricane Sandy storm surge on the New Jersey shore. Photo by: Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/U.S. Air Force/New Jersey National Guard.

Sea levels are rising 60 percent faster than Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated, according to a new study in the open access Environmental Research Letters. In addition to imperiling coastal regions and islands, global sea level rise is worsening the damage inflicted by extreme weather such as Hurricane Sandy, which recently brought catastrophic flooding to the New Jersey coast and New York City.

"This study shows once again that the IPCC is far from alarmist, but in fact has under-estimated the problem of climate change," lead author of the study, Stefan Rahmstorf, said. "That applies not just for sea-level rise, but also to extreme events and the Arctic sea-ice loss."

According to the study, global sea levels have begun to rise around 3.2 millimeters every year, as opposed to the "best estimate" in the last IPCC report of 2 millimeters. Climate change is pushing seas higher due to melt water from shrinking glaciers and ice sheets as well as the fact that warmer water physically expands.

While the study finds that the IPCC's predictions on rising atmosphere CO2 and temperature rise are generally accurate, the scientific group's projections on sea level rise "may be systematically biased low," the researchers write.

"In contrast to the physics of global warming itself, sea-level rise is much more complex," Rahmstorf explains. "To improve future projections it is very important to keep track of how well past projections match observational data."

Climate denialists have often attacked the IPCC for its predictions, but most observed impacts of climate change are in fact meeting or exceeding IPCC estimates. Slowing sea level rise requires cutting greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and warm the Earth. The next IPCC report will be released in 2013 and 2014.



CITATION: Rahmstorf, S, Foster, G., Cazenave, A. (2012). Comparing climate projections to observations up to 2011. Environmental Research Letters 7 044035 (doi:10.1088/1748-9326/7/4/044035).













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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (November 28, 2012).

Watery world: sea level rising 60 percent faster than predicted.

http://news.mongabay.com/2012/1128-hance-sea-level-ipcc.html