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Rising temperature leads to fastest sea level rise

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 10:46

Washington: The sea level along the U.S. Atlantic coast is rising faster now than at any time in the past 2,000 years because of the changes in global mean surface temperature, according to a new study.

The research was conducted by Andrew Kemp, Yale University; Benjamin Horton, University of Pennsylvania; Jeffrey Donnelly, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Michael Mann, Pennsylvania State University; Martin Vermeer, Aalto University School of Engineering, Finland; and Stefan Rahmstorf, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany.

“Having a detailed picture of rates of sea level change over the past two millennia provides an important context for understanding current and potential future changes,” said Paul Cutler, program director in NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences.

Kemp and colleagues developed the first continuous sea-level reconstruction for the past 2,000 years, and compared variations in global temperature to changes in sea level over that time period.

The team found that sea level was relatively stable from 200 BC to 1,000 AD.

Then in the 11th century, sea level rose by about half a millimeter each year for 400 years, linked with a warm climate period known as the Medieval Climate Anomaly.

Then there was a second period of stable sea level during a cooler period called the Little Ice Age. It persisted until the late 19th century.

Since the late 19th century, sea level has risen by more than 2 millimeters per year on average, the steepest rate for more than 2,100 years.

“Sea-level rise is a potentially disastrous outcome of climate change as rising temperatures melt land-based ice, and warm ocean waters,” explained Horton.

The findings were published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).


First Published: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 10:46
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