In the last century, the oceans have risen between four and eight inches, but new research from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) indicates that the rate of sea level rise has increased and could be as much as three feet over the next century.
Researchers involved with NASA’s new Sea Level Research Team have released information gathered from both satellite and research sites on Greenland. The conclusions drawn from the information have led Steve Nerem of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and head of the Sea Level Change Team to say in a press release:
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. But we don’t know whether it will happen within a century or somewhat longer.
The rise of sea level is dependent on three different factors. The first is thermal expansion which basically states that as water grows warmer it gets bigger causing the volume to expand. The second factor is the melting of glaciers and the polar ice caps caused by global warming and trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The third factor is the loss of ice in Greenland and on the Antarctic continent. The recent NASA research done on Greenland has highlighted the extent that ice is lost from these natural stockpiles. As NASA’s lead researcher in Greenland, Laurence C. Smith, a professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, said:
Losses (from icebergs) have been studied in great detail by scientists for years, but the meltwater component, despite being the dominant agent in the ice sheet’s mass balance, has received comparatively less study. This is particularly true for the surface water hydrology on top of the ice sheet, which has received very little study.
Factoring in the sea level rise caused by the loss of ice in Greenland and the Antarctic has been difficult but the recent models extrapolated from the research has significantly increased the changes that may occur.