Sea level rise is one of the many consequences of climate change. And if the dire predictions of climate scientists are accurate, there are some troubling signs that this phenomenon may become much more egregious.
According to Phys.org, a new study published this week in the journal Science suggests that today’s ocean surface temperatures are at similar levels to the temperatures from about 125,000 years ago, an era that marked our planet’s last “warm period.” However, what’s interesting – and distressing – about this discovery is that sea levels were about 20 to 30 feet higher in those times than they are at the present. This could mean sea level rise may only continue in the years to come.
Another report on the study, from the International Business Times, wrote that the aforementioned prehistoric era, which is known as the Last Interglacial Period, took place about 129,000 to 116,000 years ago. The scientists examined sediment cores from a total of 83 sites from that era, and compared the data from the samples with information from the pre-industrial era. And while temperatures from the Last Interglacial Period were similar to those recorded in pre-industrial times, they did go up by about 0.5 degrees Celsius about 4,000 years into the epoch. That led to global temperatures more similar to the 1995-2014 average.
Serious: Last Time the Ocean Was This Hot, Sea Levels Rose 30 Feet. https://t.co/3MQfDV7WO4
— Scott Denning (@airscottdenning) January 21, 2017
Andrew Watson, a climate scientist from the University of Exeter, who did not take part in the study, released a statement predicting eventual sea level rise of about 20 feet as a result of global warming.
“The study suggests that, in the long term, sea levels will rise six meters at least in response to the warming we are causing.”
Taking their findings and previous studies into account, the researchers wrote that some existing models used to estimate how sea levels may rise depending on the temperature may actually be too conservative. And that’s already taking into account how researchers have previously found that sea levels may get higher by several feet, and may reach such points that multiple coastal areas may be inundated in the future.
The new study, just like earlier papers, did not specify how fast sea levels could rise in the coming decades. But Richard Allen, a University of Reading professor of climate science, who also wasn’t involved in the study, opined that the new study is another reason for us to be worried about how climate change is affecting sea levels.
“The result that present global sea surface temperatures are indistinguishable from those at the last interglacial 125,000 years ago is extremely worrying since sea levels were six to nine meters higher then compared to present … Due to the length of time it takes to heat up the depths of our vast oceans and to melt giant ice sheets it would take thousands of years before sea level could potentially rise to such levels, so sustained and substantive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from energy-intensive activities remain vital and beneficial to societies.”
Speaking to The Guardian, Louise Sime, British Antarctic Survey head of paleoclimate research, offered her own forecast – given the current rate of ice sheet loss in the polar regions, it could take 200 to 7,000 years for sea levels to reach their Last Interglacial Period levels.
— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch) January 18, 2017
If there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, Andrew Watson believes that sea level rise is still expected to be slow, allowing humanity a lot of time to make the necessary changes to reduce the effects of global warming. But he also warned that the endgame may still be massive flooding in coastal cities.
“The good news is that with luck it will continue to rise slowly so that we have time to adapt, but the bad news is that eventually, all our present coastal city locations will be inundated,” he said.
[Featured Image by David McNew/Getty Images]