Rabu, 18 November 2020

NASA: Sea levels are rising at an accelerating rate - WOWK 13 News

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As our planet warms, sea levels are rising around the world – and are doing so at an accelerating rate. Currently, global sea level is rising about an eighth of an inch every year.

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That may seem insignificant, but it’s 30% more than when NASA launched its first satellite mission to measure ocean heights in 1992 – less than 30 years ago. And people already feel the impacts, as seemingly small increments of sea level rise become big problems along coastlines worldwide.

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Higher global temperatures cause our seas to rise, but how? And why are seas rising at a faster and faster rate? There are two main reasons: melting ice and warming waters.

 The Ice We See Is Getting Pretty Thin

About two-thirds of global sea level rise comes from melting glaciers and ice sheets, the vast expanses of ice that cover Antarctica and Greenland. In Greenland, most of that ice melt is caused by warmer air temperatures that melt the upper surface of ice sheets, and when giant chunks of ice crack off of the ends of glaciers, adding to the ocean.

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In Antarctica – where temperatures stay low year-round – most of the ice loss happens at the edges of glaciers. Warmer ocean water and warmer air meet at the glaciers’ edges, eating away at the floating ice sheets there.

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NASA can measure these changes from space. With data from the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, scientists can measure the height of ice sheets to within a fraction of an inch. Since 2006, an average of 318 gigatons of ice per year has melted from Greenland and Antarctica’s ice sheets. To get a sense of how big that is: just one gigaton is enough to cover New York City’s Central Park in ice 1,000 feet deep – almost as tall as the Chrysler Building.

With the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission – a partnership with the German Research Centre for Geosciences – scientists can calculate the mass of ice lost from these vast expanses across Greenland and Antarctica.

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It’s not just glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland that are melting, though. Nearly all glaciers have been melting in the last decade, including those in Alaska, High Mountain Asia, South America, and the Canadian Arctic. Because these smaller glaciers are melting quickly, they contribute about the same amount to sea level rise as meltwater from massive ice sheets.

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The Water’s Getting Warm

As seawater warms, it takes up more space. When water molecules get warmer, the atoms in those molecules vibrate faster, expanding the volume they take up. This phenomenon is called thermal expansion. It’s an incredibly tiny change in the size of a single water molecule, but added across all the water molecules in all of Earth’s oceans – a single drop contains well over a billion billion molecules – it accounts for about a third of global sea level rise.

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So Much to See

While sea level is rising globally, it’s not the same across the planet. Sea levels are rising about an eighth of an inch per year on average worldwide. But some areas may see triple that rate, some may not observe any changes, and some may even experience a drop in sea level. These differences are due to ocean currents, mixing, upwelling of cold water from the deep ocean, winds, movements of heat and freshwater, and Earth’s gravitational pull moving water around. When ice melts from Greenland, for example, the drop in mass decreases the gravitational pull from the ice sheet, causing water to slosh to the shores of South America.

That’s where our view from space comes in. NASA is launching Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, an international partnership satellite, to continue their decades-long record of global sea level rise.

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The Link Lonk


November 18, 2020 at 10:45PM
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NASA: Sea levels are rising at an accelerating rate - WOWK 13 News

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