Study: Atlantic Coast sea level is rising

Dec. 15, 2009 at 11:10 AM
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PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Scientists say the sea-level rise along the U.S. Atlantic Coast was 2 millimeters faster during the 20th century than at any time in 4,000 years.

The U.S.-led team of international scientists also determined the magnitude of the sea-level rise increases in a southerly direction from Maine to South Carolina. That, the researchers said, is the first demonstrated evidence of the phenomenon from observational data alone.

The scientists say the sea level rise might be related to the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and ocean thermal expansion.

"There is universal agreement that sea level will rise as a result of global warming, but by how much, when and where it will have the most effect is unclear," said University of Pennsylvania Assistant Professor Benjamin Horton. "Such information is vital to governments, commerce and the general public. An essential prerequisite for accurate prediction is understanding how sea level has responded to past climate changes and how these were influenced by geological events such as land movements."

The research provides the first accurate dataset for sea-level rise for the U.S. Atlantic coast, identifying regional differences that arise from variations in subsidence and demonstrate the possible effects of ice-sheet melting and thermal expansion for sea level rise.

The study that included Florida International University, the University of Toronto and Tulane University appears in the Dec. 1 issue of the journal Geology.

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