Sea levels are currently soaring more rapidly than at any given moment in the last 2,800 years, researchers have recently determined in 2 separate studies.
The findings were presented in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and were based on extensive investigations carried out by experts at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.
In the first study, Bob Kopp, assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences at Rutgers University, worked alongside other scientists such as marine researcher Benjamin Horton in order to gauge the rate at which sea levels have risen.
The experts analyzed the isotopic composition of sediments from 24 coastal areas, archipelagos and marshes worldwide, and also conducted other tests meant to keep track of the changes suffered by sea levels in the last 3,000 years.
It was determined that up until the Second Industrial Revolution, which began near the end of the 19th century, sea levels only climbed by about 1.5 inches at a maximum, throughout each century.
Overall, before industrialization was in full swing, sea levels never oscillated by more than 3 inches, when compared against average values reported over a period spanning across 27 centuries.
However, during the 20th century, sea levels experienced an unprecedented ascent, surging by around 5.5 inches. Ever since 1993, the speed at which sea levels have been shooting up has increased dramatically, having been estimated at approximately 12 inches per century.
In fact, it had been proven that at the moment sea levels are escalating at a rate that hasn’t been recorded in the last 2,800 years.
As study authors point out, this acceleration has been triggered by global warming, which in turn has been spurred by human activities like forest clearance and the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) for heat and electricity, transportation and industrial purposes.
The connection between climate change and the rise in sea levels may not be obvious at first, but it can be explained rather easily.
As global temperatures soar, ice caps and glaciers start melting, and the water they hold gets progressively warmer. Since water tends to expand as it is heated, and to contract as it cools, the sea begins to swell, making floods a much more common occurrence.
In fact ,in another scientific paper which Kopp and his team are yet to share with the public, it has been proven that in the last 6 decades, man-made global warming has been responsible for approximately two-thirds of the highly damaging floods that have affected 27 coastal areas across the United States.
If current trends continue unabated, it is expected that by 2,100 sea levels will have sloped upwards by up to 52 inches, as greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane accumulate in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Even in a less alarming scenario, where sea levels would rise by approximately 18 inches, the impact on coastlines would still be tremendous, especially during storms, when surges can form, inundating low-lying areas, wreaking havoc to infrastructure, closing roads and destroying property.
These predictions have also been supported by the second study, led by Anders Levermann, climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute. Similar findings have also been shared by experts from Climate Central, who have shown that most of the nuisance tidal flooding affecting the East Coast is triggered by global warming.
The only way to mitigate these changes would be if all the nations whose representatives attended the 21st Conference of the Parties will indeed sign the Paris Agreement, and succeed in reducing greenhouse gas emissions so that temperatures don’t rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius when compared to post-industrial levels.
If the goal is achieved, it is envisioned that sea levels could increase by just around 11 inches, the repercussions of this phenomenon being therefore much less severe.
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