For the first time, researchers have the tools and expertise to understand the rate at which sea level is changing and the mechanisms that drive that change.
Oceans change. Beyond merely the sloshing of waves that we all recognize along the beaches of the world, sea level describes a complex array of conditions, from chemistry to temperature to changes in the shape of the basins that hold the worlds water. In this visualization, we look at changes in sea level measured from space using data from the TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason satellites. Credit: NASA
While space based measurements are the only way to accurately measure global ocean conditions, complimentary measurements can be taken from floats distributed around the world. The Argo project, an international mission, will launch 3000 floats, which will deliver salinity, column temperature, and current velocity information. Detail of one of the buoys. Credit: NASA
Sea levels rise and fall as oceans warm and cool and as ice on land grows and shrinks. Other factors that contribute to sea level change are the amount of water stored in lakes and reservoirs and the rising and falling of land in coastal regions.
"From the Mississippi Delta to the Maldives Islands off the coast of India to the multitude of other low-lying coastal areas around the world, it’s estimated that over 100 million lives are potentially impacted by a three-foot increase in sea level," said Dr. Waleed Abdalati, head of the Cryospheric Sciences Branch at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "This is an ideal time, during the midst of an historic year of both related natural events and research developments tied to this critical global issue, to talk to the public about whether ice in our polar regions is truly melting, whether our oceans are indeed rising faster, and what these changes may mean to us."
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