Global Sea Level Rise Going Exponential? New Study Records Big Jump in Ocean Surface Height

From about a thousand years ago through to the mid 19th Century, global sea levels remained remarkably stable. Together with overall global temperatures, sea surface heights stayed at about the same levels until the late 1800s. At that time, an initiation of large-scale burning of oil, gas and coal dumped heavy volumes of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. The Earth System began to warm and seas began a slow upward climb.

Hansen sea level rise

(Global sea level rise since 1870. Image source: Dr. James Hansen.)

At first, the pace of sea level rise was minor — only hitting about 0.8 mm per year. But then, by around 1925, the rate of sea level rise more than doubled to 1.9 mm per year. The oceans, which at first only slowly accumulated heat, began a long term warming which eventually extended through almost every depth and region. This pace maintained until about 1992 when the oceans again hit a higher rate of rise at around 3.1 mm per year — a pace that then included a small but ominously growing portion of glacial melt.

Now, it appears that global warming is again pushing sea levels to rise even faster. As, over recent years, a number of ominous indicators pointed toward yet another surge in ocean surface levels.

In south Florida, the pace of  sea level rise at local tidal gauges, by last year, had gone exponential. Along the U.S. East Coast, a sudden jump in sea level during recent years was blamed on a slowing down of the Gulf Stream due to freshwater melt pulses hitting the North Atlantic.

All over the world’s frozen regions, the great land glaciers — especially in Greenland and Antarctica — have been destabilizing. Melting, cracking, and clamoring as their gargantuan, mountain-like forms assembled in an ever-speeding march to the seas. This great rush of freshwater melt and ice is already causing an ocean-threatening slow-down of Atlantic circulation. And in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica an ominous bulge of water near the southern polar zone became an indicator of an increasing rate of melt from some of the largest glaciers on Earth. A bulge that was 2 centimeters higher than the global average along melting and thawing Antarctic shores.

Global Sea Level Rise On Upward Curve?

Recently, the global sea level rise measure — AVISO — also took an unsettling leap. With satellite captures of the world ocean showing a strong surge in sea level rise throughout 2014 and into 2015. A spike that displays vividly as a hockey-stick like jog at the tail end of the measure below:

Aviso sea level rise

(Big spike in sea level rise plainly visible in the AVISO measure. Image source: AVISO.)

It’s an upward jump representing nearly a 1 centimeter spike in the rate of sea level rise over the past six months.

By itself, this jump in sea level would be something to worry over. But new findings paint an even starker picture. For a recent study, headed by Shuang Yi and published on April 30 in Geophysical Research Letters provides evidence that, since 2010, annual rates of global sea level rise have shown a strong uptick. The study, entitled An Increase in the Rate of Global Mean Sea Level Rise Since 2010, notes:

The global mean sea level (GMSL) was reported to have dropped 5 mm due to the 2010/11 La Niña and have recovered in one year. With longer observations, it is shown that the GMSL went further up to a total amount of 11.6 mm by the end of 2012, excluding the 3.0 mm/yr background trend. A reconciled sea level budget, based on observations by Argo project, altimeter and gravity satellites, reveals that the true GMSL rise has been masked by ENSO-related fluctuations and its rate has increased since 2010. After extracting the influence of land water storage, it is shown that the GMSL have been rising at a rate of 4.4 ± 0.5 mm/yr for more than three years, due to an increase in the rate of both land ice loss and steric change.

In short, the study finds an average rate of sea level rise of 4.4 mm per year, or 30% faster than the annual rate from 1992 to 2009, during the period of 2010 to 2013. For these, more rapidly rising, sea levels the study identifies clear causes. The first is an increasing rate of land ice loss. The second is what is termed as ‘steric change’ — a scientific phrase that both identifies ocean thermal expansion due to warming combined with changes in ocean salinity, which also impacts sea surface height.

The April 30 study did not include the more recent sea level rise spike now showing up in the AVISO measure. So, at least for now, sea levels do appear to be sliding up some rather dangerous curves.

Hitting the More Difficult Rates of Sea Level Increase

Such a jump has stark implications for sea level by end century. A 4.4 mm per year rate of rise would equal just less than half a meter of increased sea level within one Century. This compares to the previous rate of rise which would have resulted in a 1 foot global jump within a one hundred year span.

A jump of this kind was, however, predicted with sea level rise by end of this Century expected to hit between 0.5 and 1 meters of increase in the IPCC measure and between 5 and 6 feet in US Coast Guard studies (most studies find a range between 3-9 feet for this Century). The 4.4 mm per year increase is rather ominous in that it already puts annual rates of rise in the IPCC mid-range. An early ramp up with fully eight and a half decades left to go in a Century that will certainly see substantial further increases in global heat accumulation.

Composite

(South Florida 6 meters of sea level rise before [left frame] and after [right frame]. Note that second image is an artist’s rendering based on flood analysis showing what a 6 meter sea level rise would look like for South Florida, should it occur. Image source: Tropical Audobon Society.)

Many planners use the IPCC measure or even more conservative indicators to prepare for sea level rise at their city, county and state shores. And the fact is these indicators may fall well short of reality at the coastlines. A stark circumstance that will become more and more difficult to manage as time moves forward.

Overall, a 2010 ramping in the rate of sea level rise is a bit soon. Similar further jumps leading up to potential worst case 1-4 cm per year levels would initiate a combination of dangerous impacts including untenable rates of rise for coastal regions, severe shocks to ocean circulation systems and overall ocean health, and potentially very dangerous impacts to the world’s weather. To this point Hansen’s paper entitled ‘Greenland Ice Sheet Mass Loss, Exponential?‘ is well worth a (re)read.

Similar Climate Conditions Saw 20 Meter Surges in Sea Level Due to Glacial Melt

With current greenhouse gas levels now in the range of 400-405 parts per million coinciding with substantial jumps in glacial melt and sea level rise, it may be worth taking a look back at times in the geological past when atmospheric heating conditions were similar to those seen today. The last time heat trapping gasses were seen at such high concentrations was at the height of the Pliocene warming 3-5 million years ago. That time saw temperatures in the range of 2-3 degrees Celsius warmer than Holocene averages. It was also a geological period that saw Antarctic and Greenland melt events that pushed seas up to 20 meters higher.

We are exceeding maximum Pliocene atmospheric CO2 thresholds at this time (well exceeding if you count in a 485 CO2 equivalent forcing from all greenhouse gasses added by human beings). And we will almost certainly enter Pliocene warming levels this century. So the melt pressure we are putting on the world’s ice sheets is likely to at least be in the 20 meter range for the (hopefully) longer term.

Links:

An Increase in the Rate of Global Mean Sea Level Rise Since 2010

AVISO

Dr. James Hansen

For Miami, Sea Level Rise Has Already Gone Exponential

An Extreme Sea Level Rise Event Along the Northeast Coast of North America

World Ocean Heartbeat Fading

Antarctic Sea Levels Rising Faster Than the Global Rate

IPCC Sea Level Rise

Tropical Audobon Society

Greenland Ice Sheet Mass Loss, Exponential?

20 Meter Sea Level Rise 5 Million Years Ago

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Wili

Leave a comment

94 Comments

  1. Ouse M.D.

     /  May 4, 2015

    So, as it seems industrial nations are just gonna let all those coastal nuclear power plants melt down catastrophically.
    India, China, US, UK, Japan, France…
    Gonna have to move south, fast.

    Reply
    • They do need a plan for those reactors, Ouse. And pretty soon, I’d think.

      Reply
      • Griffin

         /  May 5, 2015

        Oh man, the track record of shut down and full decommission is not exactly a lesson in expediency (to put it mildly).

        Reply
      • Yep, Griff. Not a pretty picture. I am thinking a lot of power companies are hoping for nationalization of nukes and a public clean up bill if they’re cognizant of climate change. More externalities. And some folks give me a hard time for pushing renewables😉

        Reply
    • Mblanc

       /  May 5, 2015

      its an important angle of sea-level rise, but its one that rarely gets much air time.

      I agree with Robert. Privatise the profits, socialize the losses, we see it time and time again.

      And as with the banks, there is an implicit subsidy taxpayers are making, to cover worst case scenario’s, for these power companies.

      sorry to drag us in a political direction, but we have an election in the UK this week, and CC is hardly mentioned at all, even by the greens. It’s SO frustrating!

      Reply
    • I think a reasonable number actually can fail or be controllably taken into cold shutdown, which tides things over for quite a while – probably until long after the majority of the population is dead, and maybe until the rest have been forced to largely relocate to places not currently especially populated.

      Reply
    • Andrew Dodds

       /  May 5, 2015

      Look, Sea level rise is bad enough without inventing extra problems.

      Even under the most extreme rates of sea level rise – say 5m/decade – you would have at least a couple of years to shut down reactors and move the spent fuel to a more secure location. Or just build sufficiently high sea walls around them.

      And – as we’ve seen from Fukushima – it’s actually quite hard to pollute the ocean with nuclear material, because the ocean already contains vast amounts of various radioactive materials naturally – 4,500,000,000 tonnes of uranium alone, plus decay chain isotopes from Uranium, plus Potassium-40 and lots more. You can dissolve a LOT of reactor cores in the ocean without significantly chancing how radioactive seawater is.

      Obviously there may be local effects, but quite frankly the ocean needs more no-fishing zones.

      Reply
      • Ouse M.D.

         /  May 5, 2015

        Are You out of Your mind????
        What’s the half- life of U- 235: 700 MILLION years
        Humanity is yet to have built a structure that lasts 20.000 years, let alone a MILLION.

        I guess this is part of the “problem”.
        You still don’t get it.
        It’s not just about Climate Change. There are a lot of implications from these issues pointing to the failure of mankind to handle exponential growth thanks to industrial civilization…

        Reply
      • Vic

         /  May 5, 2015

        “…just build sufficiently high sea walls around them.”
        Why would a corporation build sea walls when they can just store it on the third floor ?

        “…quite frankly the ocean needs more no-fishing zones.”
        Like the no-fishing zones that now surround Fukushima ?

        Reply
      • wili

         /  May 5, 2015

        “Even under the most extreme rates of sea level rise – say 5m/decade – you would have at least a couple of years to shut down reactors and move the spent fuel…”

        The problem with thinking of it as even “5m/decade” is that it sounds like a steady, gradual thing. That’s not how it pans out in real life. As we are seeing now, there are periods of even faster spikes in the rate of rising than whatever the linear trend is. And on top of that, with a hotter ocean and climate you are going to have more intense winds and storms suddenly pushing vast amounts of water toward shores–think Haiyan, with a 40 foot storm surge.

        The world is not a particularly linear place.

        Reply
      • Andrew Dodds

         /  May 6, 2015

        Ouse M.D –

        There are already ~40 million tonnes of U-235 in the ocean. As I said – this is one case where as long as it’s sufficiently dispersed it’s not a problem. Not like, for example, CO2 in the atmosphere which won’t dilute away and won’t be fully cleared for something like 10,000-100,000 years.

        My personal take is that we should recycle and reuse nuclear materials rather than try to bury them.

        Vic –

        Well, we need a lot more no-fishing zones – hell, we need to put at least a third of the oceans off-limits to fishing yesterday just to have a chance of them recovering. Doing so via major nuclear accidents may be sub-optimal, though.

        wili –

        5m a decade would be so catastrophic that nuclear plants would be the least of our worries; it was to illustrate the point that pretty much any level of inundation would be reacted to.

        Reply
    • Robert In New Orleans

       /  May 5, 2015

      My understanding is that one of reasons that Guy McPherson believes near term human extinction to be inevitable is the issue of the uncontrolled release of radioactivity into the environment from nuclear power plants abandoned due to social collapse. I can also see nuclear power plants being severly damaged by extreme weather events caused by CC.

      Reply
      • Even a 3-1/2 century long catabolic collapse of the sort envisioned by John Michael Greer could cause these nuke plants to get out of control, and melt. This is not good.

        Reply
  2. Hi Robert,

    this study from last year about the sea level rise supposed deceleration made some buzz among climate skeptics:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921818113002397

    I will not provide links to their blogs, since they don’t deserve it.

    Best,

    Alex

    Reply
    • What we have now is a pretty strong confluence of studies showing both an acceleration in local and global SLR. East Coast SLR accelerating, Antarctic SLR, faster than norm, glacial outflow accelerating, AVISO — spike, and a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters finding a 4.4 mm SLR.

      It’s possible that we return to the 3 mm trend. But there’s enough evidence at this time to send up a flare.

      Reply
      • Totally agree. There is also the same topic covered over at Skeptical Science, also a good stuff:

        http://www.skepticalscience.com/Sharp-Spike-in-Sea-Level-Rise.html

        Alex

        Reply
        • We’ve been seeing this spike in AVISO for some time now. The new study confirms some of the observations both in the global measure and at various locations. Of course, the findings are preliminary. And we would expect an SLR spike with El Nino, especially a strong one. But the GRL study finds the rise outside of Nino influence, which is why I posted an update here.

      • rayduray

         /  May 4, 2015

        Robert,

        Re: “Antarctic SLR”

        As the mass of Antarctica decreases due to the melting of the land based ice, it is theorized that the ocean surrounding Antarctica will actually fall due to decreasing gravitational influences. Same is true of the bulge of sea water surrounding Greenland.

        Eventually, yes, sea level will eventually rise around Antarctica, but it actually could drop a bit first, especially considering post-glacial rebound of the land mass as well as gravitational influences.

        Reply
      • Spike

         /  May 5, 2015

        Would not logic suggest that you’d have more ice melt adding to Antarctic sea levels for a period of time, but that as Antarctic ice melts and gravitational pull declines that water will increasingly move N into the other world oceans over time. That would suggest further future accelerations in SLR globally.

        Reply
      • Exactly, Spike.

        Reply
  3. Reblogged this on The Secular Jurist and commented:
    “In short, the study finds an average rate of sea level rise of 4.4 mm per year, or 30% faster than the annual rate from 1992 to 2009, during the period of 2010 to 2013. For these, more rapidly rising, sea levels the study identifies clear causes. The first is an increasing rate of land ice loss. The second is what is termed as ‘steric change’ — a scientific phrase that both identifies ocean thermal expansion due to warming combined with changes in ocean salinity, which also impacts sea surface height.”

    Reply
  4. Reblogged this on jpratt27.

    Reply
  5. bearingwitness

     /  May 5, 2015

    Robert, do you know where there are any alternative satellite images of other vulnerable coastlines (for example in the Pacific Islands), which are *already* losing their homes/ livelihoods/ lives to CC-induced sea level rises – not to mention the compounding impacts of salinity, increasing ocean acidity, king tides or “super” cyclones etc? Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Samoa, American Samoa, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Fiji, Niue, Vanuatu or the Federated States of Micronesia? I’ve searched far and wide, but there doesn’t seem to be any comparative images, like the one you have of Florida. (Perhaps because many of these low-lying areas will cease to exist?!)
    Two months ago, Florida banned it’s state workers from mentioning climate change, global warming or sustainability (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/mar/08/florida-banned-terms-climate-change-global-warming – sorry, I couldn’t work out how to insert a hyperlink.) I’m sure they would not be impressed with your clear illustrations of such a different reality!

    Reply
    • Good question. I’ll see if I can dig something up. But, yes, a lot of these places won’t be around in the current scenario.

      Reply
    • Spike

       /  May 5, 2015

      This site allows you to put in sea level rise and see some possible impacts – the East coast of the UK has some very low flat areas which will almost certainly be reclaimed by the sea in future, along with large areas along the coast of NW Europe. Indeed there are buildings already being claimed by the sea in Eastern England.

      http://www.floodmap.net/

      Reply
      • wili

         /  May 5, 2015

        I like that interactive map, but it’s pretty unsophisticated–just adds things up mathematically as if slr will be the same everywhere on the globe. In actuality, some areas will have much higher and faster rates of slr than others, due to currents, wind patterns and other factors. I think Climate Central was developing a more nuanced set of maps, but I think those are only for parts of the US right now.

        Reply
      • Thanks for this, Spike. Great find.

        Reply
  6. Our New Zealand scientist Tim Naish led a team to Antarctica with the Andril project to get sea bed core samples. They examined the period 3.5 million years ago when we last had 400 ppn of CO2 in the atmosphere and found no ice shelf in the region and concluded that the sea levels were twelve metres higher. Part from Antarctica and part from Greenland. They also came to the conclusion that the temperature was 2 to 3C warmer.

    Reply
  7. New climate projections paint bleak future for tropical coral reefs

    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-05/cu-ncp050415.php

    Reply
  8. Paris 2015: Two degrees warming a ‘prescription for disaster’ says top climate scientist James Hansen

    The aim to limit global warming to two degrees of pre-industrial levels is “crazy” and “a prescription for disaster”, according to a long-time NASA climate scientist.

    The paleo-climate record shows sea-levels were six to eight metres higher than current levels when global temperatures were less than two degrees warmer than they are now, Professor James Hansen, formerly head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and now at Columbia University in New York, said.

    “It’s crazy to think that 2 degrees celsius is a safe limit,” Professor Hansen told RN Breakfast on ABC Radio on Tuesday, adding that this would lock in several metres of sea-level rise by the middle of the century

    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/paris-2015-two-degrees-warming-a-prescription-for-disaster-says-top-climate-scientist-james-hansen-20150504-ggu33w.html?stb=fb

    Reply
  9. l8in

     /  May 5, 2015

    Reblogged this on L8in.

    Reply
  10. In case somebody missed it:

    In early March, the strongest wave of tropical convection ever measured (known as the Madden Julian Oscillation) by modern meteorology moved into the western Pacific from Indonesian waters bringing an outbreak of 3 tropical cyclones, including deadly category 5 Pam which ravaged the south Pacific islands of Vanuatu. This extreme outburst of tropical storms and organized thunderstorms pulled strong westerly winds across the equator, unleashing a huge surge of warm water below the ocean surface. Normally, trade winds blow warm water across the Pacific from the Americas to Australia and Indonesia, pushing up sea level in the west Pacific. When the trade winds suddenly reversed to strong westerlies, it was as if a dam burst, but on the scale of the earth’s largest ocean, the Pacific. The front edge of that massive equatorial wave, called a Kelvin wave, is now coming ashore on the Americas.

    Super El Nino Likely as Huge Warm Water Wave Hits West Coast, Extreme Marine Die Off Developing

    Reply
  11. The situation is so dire, according to a new study, that it threatens an “empty landscape” in some ecosystems “across much of the planet Earth.” The authors were clear: This is a big problem — and it’s a problem with us, not them.

    Horribly bleak study sees ‘empty landscape’ as large herbivores vanish at startling rate

    Reply
    • Andy in San Diego

       /  May 5, 2015

      I shudder to think what humans would resort to.

      Reply
      • Mark from New England

         /  May 5, 2015

        Look at Easter Island’s collapse – pretty bloody horrible.

        Reply
  12. There’s been a big increase in variability at the ENSO frequency since 2010 – according to the AVISO chart. Is that “real”, or is it some artifact of a change in the measurement methods ? If real, is it suggestive of a step change in the impact of ENSO?

    Reply
  13. Spike

     /  May 5, 2015

    Article on PIG here – “Of all the glaciers in the world, none of them are losing more ice than the Pine Island and none of them are contributing more to sea level rises,” adds Smith.

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/04/polar-meltdown-icy-road-disaster-glaciers

    Reply
    • Some new studies reviewed in UK press:

      ” As the computer model ran, it took 100 years for the West Antarctic ice sheet to raise sea levels by about three metres.”

      The models seem to be getting closer to paleo data.

      http://www.theguardian.com/environment/planet-oz/2015/may/05/melting-antarctic-failure-to-cut-emissions-now-could-raise-worlds-oceans-by-several-metres?CMP=share_btn_tw

      Reply
      • Readfearn quotes John Church

        “I would not dispute the idea that you could get substantially larger rises (beyond the end of this century) particularly with parts of West Antarctica being grounded below sea level and potentially unstable. I don’t think that three metres is out of the question.

        Since the IPCC report, studies have shown that this process is now happening. We have triggered something that is potentially unstoppable.”

        Reply
    • Colorado Bob

       /  May 5, 2015

      From the link –

      ” The resulting papers should provide a new understanding of the shelf ice of the Pine Island glacier and of the general impact that melting ice shelves are likely to have on the planet. “What we have found is that the ocean is getting underneath the shelf ice at Pine Island and that the sea water is clearly getting warmer,” Smith says. “It is melting the ice from below and at a rate that is increasing over the years.”

      In addition, other researchers have noted that winds are becoming more intense in the Antarctic. These are now churning up the warmer water round the coast of Antarctica and are driving it into the ice. Again, the effect is to melt the ice and break it up, destabilising the glaciers above. “

      Reply
      • Colorado Bob

         /  May 5, 2015

        Reply
      • The storms are pumping the warm water up through Ekman type forces. You couldn’t write this kind of stuff in sci-fi. Immense, powerful forces we’re dealing with here. An atmosphere-ocean-ice teleconnection.

        And god does that SDC graph look brutal.

        Reply
    • Spike

       /  May 6, 2015

      Reading the second paper referred to by the Guardian re new ice sheet model:

      The equivalent eustatic sea level rise reaches 5 m after ∼200 yr and 17 m after ∼3000 yr (Fig. 4, red curve), similar in magnitude to albeit uncertain proxy estimates of past sea-level variations mentioned above. About 3 mesl comes from West Antarctica, and the remaining ∼14 mesl comes from East Antarctic basins. The bigger contribution of EAIS, despite its similar area of collapse to WAIS, is explained by the much greater volumes of ice above flotation in the East Antarctic basins, particularly in the Aurora.

      Reply
  14. Phil

     /  May 5, 2015

    Professor James Hanson gave an interview on Radio National (Australia) on the inadequacy of the 2 degrees c warming target adopted in climate change negotiations, with comments of dangers of sea level rise being greater than indicated by IPCC. The link to the radio interview as well as a summary is provided in the Sydney Morning Herald article link below.

    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/paris-2015-two-degrees-warming-a-prescription-for-disaster-says-top-climate-scientist-james-hansen-20150504-ggu33w.html

    Reply
  15. Andy in San Diego

     /  May 5, 2015

    It looks like the Arctic is going into the seasonal depletion mode.

    Reply
  16. wili

     /  May 5, 2015

    Hey, I got another hat tip! After a certain number of them, do we get some kind of prize?? ‘-)

    Reply
  17. rustj2015

     /  May 5, 2015

    Of unfortunate news:
    Flawed Methane Monitor Underestimates Leaks at Oil and Gas Sites

    “It could be a big deal,” especially if it turns out the EPA is underestimating methane leaks, said study co-author Amy Townsend-Small, a geology professor at the University of Cincinnati. The paper was published in late March in the peer-reviewed Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association.
    Robert Howarth, an earth systems science professor at Cornell University who was unaffiliated with the work, said the study has serious implications.

    “Since this instrument is widely used to meet EPA emissions requirements, this does indeed call into question those data,” Howarth said.

    BUT:
    The good news is the apparent solution shouldn’t be hard to implement, said lead author Touché Howard, a semi-retired air quality consultant and firefighter who lives in Durham, N.C.

    http://insideclimatenews.org/news/05052015/flawed-methane-monitor-underestimates-leaks-oil-and-gas-sites

    Reply
  18. I’ve posting the AVISO graph at Climate Etc. for the last few weeks. Noticed yesterday that Colorado updated and they now show a similar spike:

    http://sealevel.colorado.edu/files/2015_rel2/sl_ns_global.pdf

    One of the other times this happened was the 1997-1998 El Nino.

    Reply
    • Good catch, JCH.

      This particular spike in SLR is at least in the range of the 1998 El Nino. The AVISO graph represents what appears to be a stronger signal.

      I wonder if this is a leading indicator of 2014-2015 event strength?

      Reply
  19. “The fact that West Antarctic ice-melt is still accelerating is a big deal because it’s increasing its contribution to sea-level rise,” Harig said. “It really has potential to be a runaway problem. It has come to the point that if we continue losing mass in those areas, the loss can generate a self-reinforcing feedback whereby we will be losing more and more ice, ultimately raising sea levels by tens of feet.”

    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/sea-level-past-present-melting-rates-point-3-metre-rise-by-end-century-1499710

    Reply
  20. Colorado Bob

     /  May 5, 2015

    Simons said:

    “You shouldn’t only look at the ice volume – you should also weigh it to find the mass changes. But there isn’t going to be a whole lot of research of this type coming up because the GRACE satellites are on their last legs.”

    “This could be the last statement of this kind on these kinds of data for a long time. There may be a significant data gap during which the only monitoring available will not be by ‘weighing’ but by ‘looking’ via laser or radar altimetry, photogrammetry or field studies.”
    https://marketbusinessnews.com/rapid-antarctic-ice-melt-may-bring-10ft-sea-level-rise-by-2100/59272

    Reply
  21. Vic

     /  May 5, 2015

    More anecdotal El Nino.

    Wide spread flooding and multiple drownings in New South Wales and Queensland last month were due to two separate weather systems known as East Coast Lows, or East coast cyclones.

    From Wikipedia…
    “Correlations of east coast cyclones with the interannual differences of the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) indicate a strong preference for these storms to form just after a large swing from negative to positive Southern Oscillation index values and especially between swings from negative SOI the year before and positive SOI the year after. This suggests a preference for formation of east coast cyclones between extreme events of the Southern Oscillation Index.”

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_east_coast_low

    Reply
  22. CC – DROUGHT – CALIFORNIA LOSING TREES – 12,000,000 SINCE 2014:

    ‘California Drought Killed 12 Million Forest Trees Since Last Year’

    An estimated 12 million trees across California’s forestlands have died over the past year because of extreme drought conditions, according to an aerial survey conducted April 8-17 by the U.S. Forest Service.

    In San Diego County, 82,528 trees, mostly Jeffrey pines across Mt. Laguna, have succumbed to a lack of rainfall, with many more struggling to survive, said Jeffrey Moore, interim aerial survey program manager for the U.S. Forest Service.

    There is “very heavy mortality, a lot of discoloration in the pine trees that probably will expire sometime during this growing season, as well as oak trees that are suffering,” Moore said.

    Reply
      • Note – 050515 US SENATE & US WILDFIRES
        This AM, I happened to put C-SPAN on the communal TV where I live, a 100 year old rooming wooden house (Built strong like a ship.). The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on Wildfire Management. (Notice the way our “natural” resources are tied to energy , FF extraction, etc.)
        The hearing heard from four experts, including Stephen Pyne from AZ — but the Senate Committee was only the Chair, and one Rep. and one Dem. Otherwise the Committee was absent on an increasingly dire situation. Not a good sign.

        OUT

        Reply
  23. Colorado Bob

     /  May 5, 2015

    Climate Deniers Insert Themselves Into Boston University’s Divestment Debate

    Probably the last thing you’d expect to find when browsing the website of Boston University’s Trustees is a comment section where top university scientists debate right-wing policy advocates about the reality of human-caused climate change.

    But if you look hard enough, that’s exactly what you’ll get.

    At a bottom of a recently-released document discussing fossil fuel divestment at BU, at least four men affiliated with the conservative Heartland Institute are arguing about climate change with three professors — evolutionary ecologist Les Kaufman, molecular biologist Edward Loechler, and Department of Earth & Environment associate professor Ian Sue Wing.

    Link

    Reply
    • sunkensheep

       /  May 6, 2015

      The Heartland Institute represent the propaganda arm of the very organizations the university is proposing to divest from.
      While they paint themselves as a right wing policy think tank they are just PR shils.

      Reply
  24. This AVISO graph is also interesting, Jason 2 only:

    Reply
    • Very interesting — including both the 2010 EL Niño, the big 2011 La Niña dip, and the current spike. And we are pretty well outside the 3.3 mm range.

      Reply
  25. If it’s verified that the SLR is now 2 cm per annum, we’ll see 2 meters higher sea levels around 2100 – 2115. Worse than the IPCC projections. A lot of coastal cities will find themselves in quite a predicament.

    Reply
    • Nothing to indicate that, Ed. New study showing 4.4 mm per year. Antarctic study shows 2 cm above global average bulge near the ice sheets. But that’s total difference, not per annum.

      Reply
      • Say it’s one meter by 2100. What percentages of that would happen in the first 25 years, the second 25 years, the third 25 years, and the last 25 years? Logically, the signs of acceleration of sea level rise in the first 25 years are going to be pretty small. That is what makes the spike so interesting. It starts from above the trend line, and it could keep going up for a pretty long time. If so, it’s not small. It’s already not small.

        Reply
        • We could have 5 meters by 2040. That would be extraordinary. But I don’t think it’s impossible under BAU burning.

          The way that would look is we’d get these incremental increases. Then we’d get hit with a huge pulse.

          Sorry to say, but that’s the way these ice sheets have moved in the past. The ice age ramp is basically a long list of big pulses. And we are dealing with forcings here that are well out of ice age context.

          My opinion, informed by Hansen, is that we get into real danger as we close in on Eemian temperatures. 1 to 1.5 C is a rough spot. 1.5 to 2.0 C is extreme risk.

          I guess the upshot is that if you get such a huge pulse, the negative feedback from all that ice and fresh water hitting the oceans does put a bit of a damper on atmospheric warming. The deep ocean takes a heat pulse, though. And global weather just goes nuts.

          Is that likely? I don’t know. How does one predict an exact tipping point? Probably less likely than a 3-9 foot rise by end century. But in the range of 1-2 C warming — approaching Eemian and Pliocene levels that would stress so many of these ice sheets — I’d say that all bets are pretty much off.

          Needless to say the 1.5 foot measure for IPCC is probably wildly conservative and does not really take into account the paleoclimate temperature/melt context.

          You will find a lot of scientists who disagree with this overall assessment. But based on the glaciers that are moving now — 15 feet of SLR worth or more if you include Totten — it does look like we are at the bottom of a rather steep ramp.

          What’s my official range? 1-4 feet by mid Century and 3-9 feet by end. But that comes at a long list of qualifiers.

      • Robert – I’ve read Hansen’s discussion on the 5 meters. That’s a lot, but he’s James E. Hansen. I read this paper a few weeks ago and found it interesting given the number of commenters on climate blogs who take the rate from Colorado CU, say 3.2mm per year, and multiply it times the number of years until 2100, and then claim no problem exists.

        http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140414/ncomms4635/full/ncomms4635.html

        Plug in the spike!

        Reply
  26. Hansen said that once the ice starts melting you get a doubling of the rats every ten years which is very serious as the ice melt has already started to accelerate. With regard to the 2c temperature that we are supposed to keep below this can be confusing as increases are not even across the world. The land warms more than the oceans and the poles warm more than the tropics. So that a 2C increase would be 2.2C on the land and 3C or 4C in West Antarctica.
    The water near the surface of the Antarctic is -1.8C and at this temperature will not melt the ice sheets. The deeper water is +2C and it is this water that is getting nearer the surface and is now creeping in under the ice and melting it from below.

    Reply
    • Hansen noted that we now have a 10 year doubling rate of ice sheet mass loss… Just to clarify. But that’s smoothed data. We have big melt years, like 2012, that serve as glaring outliers.

      And of course 2 C is a global increase. 2 C can well mean 6 C in the Arctic, without a comprehensive range of feedbacks.

      As for deep, warm water upwelling hitting the Antarctic ice in the basal zone… Tell me about it. We’ve been covering that here for three years now. Rignot has been on this ball for at least a decade.

      Reply
  27. Tom Bond

     /  May 6, 2015

    With respect to sea level rise the assessment of risk for coastal infrastructure should be based on the highest creditable risk (similar to earthquake risk). Currently here in Australia State and Federal governments have planned for a 1 metre rise by 2100 (IPCC worst case), but my observations are that this is largely ignored as it has no public support.
    Hansen is 100% correct when he says there is a real risk of abrupt sea level rise if the melting of the polar ice sheets continues with a doubling of the mass loss every 7 to 10 years. This could see a 1 metre sea level rise by mid-century or just after.
    While there is a high risk this will occur I doubt there is any government in the world planning for this eventuality.

    Reply
    • 1 meter by mid century is certainly creditable. Not sure if that’s the highest creditable. But it’s in the range.

      Australia has a similar response to SLR as we’ve seen in the states. North Carolina, for example, is only considering a 1 foot rise. Florida isn’t looking at it at all, but Miami is. My hometown cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach are looking at 3 feet, but they’re subsiding, they’re in a zone where Gulf Stream backwash gets them another 1-3 feet by itself, and if Antarctica really goes the gravity rebound sends a lot cross-ocean their way.

      I really don’t think anyone has a good handle on this.

      Reply
      • anne

         /  May 7, 2015

        It’s displacement of land-based ice into the sea that we need to worry about. It doesn’t matter if it’s water or icebergs if it tips into the sea off Greenland or Antarctica. So it can happen suddenly and sooner than people think if they’re just calculating insolation/temperature/melt relations. Just concerned about the word ‘melt’, which some people take so literally. Again and again casual readers think it will all take a long time to melt out (it will) but catastrophic weakening happens much sooner.

        Reply
  28. Robin Datta

     /  May 6, 2015

    There is a specific prediction for sea level rise after 2015; if the prediction fails, the article can be disregarded:

    http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2012/08/charting-mankinds-expressway-to-extinction.html

    “enhanced global warming will melt the global ice sheets at a fast increasing rate causing the sea level to begin rising at 15.182 cm/yr in the first few years after 2015 giving an accurate way of gauging the worldwide continental ice loss (Figure 3). This sudden increase in the rate of sea level rise will mark the last moment mankind will have to take control of the Arctic wide blowout of methane into the atmosphere”

    Reply
    • Andy in YKD

       /  May 6, 2015

      One would think that as we witness the paradigm of centralizing control and power crumbling that a prescription worded “the last moment mankind will have to take control of the Arctic. . .” might bear a bit of introspection.

      Reply
  29. The problem with forecasting sea level rise in the region of four metres by mid century you have to factor in catastrophic collapse and that is not easy to model. Precisely why the IPCC left it out. The rate of loss from the Antarctic ice sheets is doubling every decade which would only get us to 1.5 metres and so we need a much bigger event to get to four metres. In my opinion, to get a better feel for it, we would have to move away from modelling and get a frank opinion from scientists who are working in the field.

    Reply
    • That’s a good idea. Something similar to the recent survey of Arctic scientists on the carbon feedback issue might do the trick.

      Reply
  30. May I recommend that you start putting the publication date on your blog posts? Sometimes old ones pop up in the social media, and I never know the “when”. Since the impacts are accelerating, something that was posted a few years ago will give the reader the wrong impression on the current situation.

    Reply
  31. Could you tell me how you get your two interseting figures from AVISO. Idon’t find them on their website….and I haveno reply by phone or mail…..
    merci
    bv

    Reply
  32. When I first started studying climate change all comments about sea level rise refered to Bangladesh and the Pacific Islands because they were poor people far away. At least we now use Florida and the east coast of the USA as examples as that is where the big losses are and it ia also the home of denialism.

    Reply
  1. Global Sea Level Rise Going Exponential? New Study Records Big Jump in Ocean Surface Height | robertscribbler | Joe Blum's Blog
  2. Climate-Change Summary and Update
  3. Sea Level Rise: Exponentially Increasing | Planet in Distress
  4. Catastrophic Sea Level Rise within Three Generations | Collapse of Industrial Civilization
  5. links | existence.strangled

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