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Tue May 23, 2017, 11:01 PM

Researchers Model Differences in East Coast Sea Level Rise

http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2017/05/18/researchers-model-differences-in-east-coast-sea-level-rise/
Researchers Model Differences in East Coast Sea Level Rise

by Earth Institute|May 18, 2017

By Kristen French

For years, scientists have been warning of a so-called “hot spot” of accelerated sea-level rise along the northeastern U.S. coast. But accurately modeling this acceleration as well as variations in sea-level rise from one region to another has proven challenging.

Now an upcoming paper in Geophysical Research Letters offers the first comprehensive model for understanding differences in sea level rise along North America’s East Coast. That model incorporates data not just from atmospheric pressure and ocean dynamics—changing currents, rising ocean temperatures and salinity all influence sea level—but also, for the first time, ice mass change in Greenland and Antarctica. The researchers say their model supports a growing consensus that sea level rise began accelerating in 1990 and that what they found will improve estimates of future sea level rise at a local level.

“A lot of people have been looking for sea level acceleration and have been having trouble finding it,” said James Davis, co-author on the paper and a professor and researcher at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “The fact that we could model this well seems to indicate that what we are measuring is correct.”

Davis worked together with oceanographer Nadya Vinogradova, founder of Cambridge Climate Institute in Massachusetts, on the sea level rise modeling project. Their model, which incorporated assumptions that acceleration of sea level rise began in the 1990s and not before that, accurately predicted variations in sea level rise along North America’s East Coast that have been observed in tide-gauge data for over a half century.


The light blue line shows seasonal (3-month) sea level estimates from Church and White (2011). The darker line is based on University of Hawaii Fast Delivery sea level data. Graphic: NOAA

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