Melting of Polar Ice Sheets Leads to Sharp Jump in Rate of Sea Level Rise

The pace of sea level rise has nearly tripled since 1990, due in large measure to an acceleration in the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, according to a new study.

Melt on the Greenland ice sheet.

Melt on the Greenland ice sheet. NASA

The study, conducted by a team of European scientists, shows that before 1990, global sea levels were rising at roughly 0.43 inches per decade. Now, however, the pace of rising seas has reached 1.22 inches per decade. Moving forward, that rate is only expected to increase as global warming further melts the Greenland ice sheet and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

The European researchers, reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, came up with the new figures by combining satellite data on sea level rise — which dates to the early 1990s — with records of tide gauges from around the world. The scientists correlated and adjusted the information from local tide gauges based on current understanding of how sea level varies among different regions worldwide.

The latest study confirmed recent research showing that sea level rise is accelerating, but it found a larger rate of increase than previous studies.