The Pace of Ocean Rise Yet Quickens — AVISO Shows Record Spike in Sea Level

According to a new paper out by James Hansen, human warming could force glaciers to melt so fast that seas rise by as much as ten feet in as few as fifty years. Ten feet in fifty years of business as usual fossil fuel burning. It’s enough to change the face of human civilization. To render many of our vast cities waterlogged wastelands as a tide of migrants flood inland to flee the all-too-real rise of the waters.

It’s a situation we really need to get a handle on. One we should be monitoring with increasing concern. One we should absolutely be trying to prevent by ramping down fossil fuel burning as swiftly as possible.

Over the past Century, global sea level rise has been following a steadily sloping curve. At the beginning of the 20th Century, rates of global sea level rise were a mere 0.8 millimeters each year. By mid Century, the rate had increased to around 1.9 millimeters. And by the first decade of the 21st Century, the rate had again jumped — hitting 3.3 millimeters. As of 2014, satellites above the Earth had sniffed out another jump in the rate of sea level increase. A surge in the pace of rising water spiking well above the 3.3 millimeter per year trend line. A potential warning sign that basal melt of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland was starting to have an ever-greater impact.

Sea leve rise AVISO July

(Largest spike in sea level rise since 1993 is now being observed in the AVISO satellite monitor. Image source: AVISO.)

For as of this past month sea levels had spiked to nearly one centimeter above the annual trend line. A record spike that, as yet, shows little sign of abating.

Other than glacial melt and thermal expansion of the oceans due to a continued accumulation of heat, there are a few other ocean and atmospheric features with the potential to wag the overall trend line. One of these is El Nino. And this year is likely to feature one of the strongest El Ninos on record. But the current spike is also the highest upward variance we’ve seen in the entire satellite record dating back to 1993. It’s a severe wag to the upside that’s worth at least a couple of raised eyebrows.

To hit Hansen’s 10 foot in fifty year mark, what we’d end up seeing is a doubling in the rate of glacial melt from Greenland and West Antarctica every 5-10 years. It’s an extraordinary pace of melting. A signal that should show up in the GRACE satellite sensors measuring gravity loss from the great ice sheets. This signal, however, would also start to show up in the global sea level rise monitors as a continued ramping up of the pace at which oceans are surging. And we can’t entirely rule out that we’re observing some of that quickening in the spike we see now.

Links:

AVISO

Warning From Scientists: Stop Fossil Fuel Burning or Age of Storms, Rapid Sea Level Rise is Coming Soon

Historic Rate of Sea Level Rise

Possible Strongest El Nino on Record

 

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10 Comments

  1. Quick rescale that chart…

    Reply
  2. That rise in sea level graph looks like the rate doubled in 2010-11: 6 to 7 mm per annum now. We’ll probably know next year if we’re seeing ice sheet melt doubling every five years.

    And a doubling in five years means we get the ten-foot sea level rise earlier.

    Either way, it doesn’t look good. :eek

    Reply
  3. Syd Bridges

     /  August 1, 2015

    If we’re very lucky, this rise might be followed by a drop as happened a few years back, but with El Nino still ramping up, and increasing instability in the cryosphere, “I hae ma doots,” as my Scottish father used to say. This is an extremely worrying event, which is not unexpected. It definitely requires close monitoring. Here in Colorado, loss of beach front property is not a problem, but insurance rates may soon (Willie Soon?) be rising in Florida.

    Reply
  4. Abel Adamski

     /  August 1, 2015

    Don’t forget to add in the melt water from all the mountain Glaciers which are melting fast, and Alaska, Canada, Siberia.

    Reply
  5. Janet stansberry

     /  August 1, 2015

    SYD, There will be no need for ins rates to rise. Ins companies will just do what they have always done: not pay their claims or low ball poor people & government will do nothing about it. Then they will crawl back under the rocks they came out of.

    Reply
  6. climatehawk1

     /  August 1, 2015

    Tweet scheduled.

    Reply
  7. To get the sea level rises that Hansen is talking about we need to have a catastrophic collapse of the ice shelves in Antarctica,They are already melting from the bottom very quickly but they are also very thick. Larsen A and B have already gone and C has a big crack in it. When Pine Island ice shelf goes we will know that the events that Hansen is talking about are very close. It not the ice shelf itself that causes the sea level rise as much of that is already in the water, its the speed up of the land ice currently held back by the ice shelf. http://www.climateoutcome.kiwi.nz/latest-posts–news/-4-metre-sea-rise-by-2050

    Reply
  8. Brian

     /  August 5, 2015

    My apologies if this is a repost (folks are quick in these parts) but this is a great breakdown on modern glacial melt by Jason Box http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jason-e-box/ice-melt-fast_b_7927186.html

    Reply
    • Dr. Box does a great job with this one. Shows how much the cutting edge science has progressed. There’s still a lot to learn, though.

      Reply

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