Another study confirmed the unprecedented impacts of the climate crisis: Sea levels along the eastern United States are rising at its fastest rate in 2,000 years.
Researchers led by a team from Rutgers University studied sea level rise at six sites along the Atlantic coast. They found that the rate of change between 1900 and 2000 was more than double the average for the period between year 0 and 1800, Rutgers Today reported.
“The growing influence of the global component is the most significant change in sea level balances at the six sites,” wrote the study authors.
The research, published in Nature Communications Tuesday, focused on sea-level sites in Connecticut, New York, North Jersey, South Jersey (Leeds Point and Cape May Courthouse) and North Carolina. Scientists looked at sea level budgets, which are the set of regional, local and global factors that influence sea level change. Examples of regional factors include land subsidence or subsidence, while local factors include groundwater withdrawal, Rutgers Today explained. The study is the first to examine these factors over a long period at sites in the Atlantic. Most studies of sea level balance have focused only on the 20th and 21st centuries, and only at the global level.
Research found that the dominant force behind the sea level change had changed. During the entire 2000 year period, land subsidence caused by the retreat of the Laurentian ice sheet caused the change.
However, in the last century, global forces have gained the upper hand.
“Where it was once this regional shipwreck that was the dominant force, now it is this global component, which is being driven by melting ice and warming oceans,” Jennifer S. Walker, Senior Author and Postdoctoral Fellow Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Told CNN.
Since 1950, the global climate crisis has caused 36 to 50 percent of sea level rise at all six sites, the authors determined.
The results are not only important for understanding the scale of the current crisis, but also for helping policymakers cope with its consequences. Rising sea levels can increase flooding on sunny days and make storms such as Hurricane Sandy of 2012 more extreme.
“The impacts of a big storm like this are just going to be exacerbated on top of (rising seas),” Walker told CNN.
This is why the study chose to study individual locations over a long period of time.
“Having a thorough understanding of sea level change at long-term sites is imperative for regional and local planning and for responding to future sea level rise,” Walker told Rutgers Today. “By learning how different processes vary over time and contribute to sea level change, we can more accurately estimate future contributions at specific sites.”
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