Study Projects Two Feet of Sea Level Rise by 2100
The research, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, shows that global sea levels have risen roughly three millimeters (0.1 inches) per year in the past. However, that rate is not constant—it may jump to 10 millimeters per year by 2100.
One of the main drivers behind that acceleration is the melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.
Significantly, the projected sea level rise is a "conservative" estimate and may likely be higher, the researchers warn.
"There may be abrupt changes in the ice sheets," lead author Steve Nerem, a University of Colorado-Boulder professor of aerospace engineering sciences, told ThinkProgress. “That's why I think that this is a conservative estimate, because it doesn't consider what if the ice sheets really start to go."
The new research confirms computer-modeled projections from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Nerem told InsideClimate News that the study is important because it relies completely on observational data.
"Some folks have not wanted to do anything about climate change because they don't trust the models. These findings support the modeled projections," he said.
Sea level rise is already causing major problems for coastal cities, from high tides to intense storm surges.
"Any flooding concerns that coastal communities have for 2100 may occur over the next few decades," Oregon State University coastal flooding expert Katy Serafin told the Associated Press.