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Study: Sea levels are rising at fastest rate in 3,000 years

"The new sea-level data confirm once again just how unusual the age of modern global warming due to our greenhouse gas emissions is," said researcher Stefan Rahmstorf.
By Brooks Hays   |   Feb. 23, 2016 at 1:24 PM

POTSDAM, Germany, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Sea levels are rising faster than they have at any other time in modern history.

Between the founding of Rome and the Industrial Revolution, sea levels never rose or fell more than 1.5 inches in a given century. During the 20th century, sea levels rose an average of 5.5 inches. By 1993, sea level rise had accelerated to a pace of a foot per century.

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Since then, accelerated sea level rise has continued. If seas continue to rise at the same pace, levels will rise between 22 and 52 inches by 2100.

"Coastal Planners need to know how a reasonable worst-case scenario as well as a well-founded best-case scenario look like to weigh chances and costs," Ben Marzeion, a researcher from the University of Bremen, Germany, said in a press release. "The best available science is now converging towards a common uncertainty range of future sea-level rise."

The new data was collected and analyzed by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The results are detailed in two new papers published in the journal PNAS -- one focusing on the past sea level rise and another on future projections.

The historical projections were made possible by a new model that allowed scientists to extrapolate global sea level changes from regional observations and historical records.

With help from researchers at Tufts University, scientists at Potsdam organized sea level rise data records from a variety of ecological and archaeological sites spanning the last 3,000 years -- 24 locations around the world, including coral atolls, marshes and fjords.

The study comprised that largest analysis of historical sea level records yet. The results largely confirmed the results of previous models, but scientists say the size and scope of the new research will improve future studies.

"We can now show the effect in an unprecedentedly robust way, based upon the statistical analysis of a global database of regional sea-level reconstructions," said Stefan Rahmstorf, co-author of the study on past sea level rise. "The new sea-level data confirm once again just how unusual the age of modern global warming due to our greenhouse gas emissions is -- and they demonstrate that one of the most dangerous impacts of global warming, rising seas, is well underway."

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