Sea level rise and sea level rise flooding have been gradually increasing for decades, but scientists are predicting a noticeable jump in the next decade. Why? A predictable wobble in the moon’s orbit will place Earth’s tide-driving companion closer to the planet from 2030 to 2040. A closer moon means higher high tides and lower low tides.
When you combine the moon’s stronger gravitational pull on the oceans with climate change-driven sea level rise, we can expect to see even more sea level rise flooding than we’re now witnessing in coastal communities. In fact, experts are predicting the moon wobble will result in sea level rise flooding conditions that were not expected until the end of this century. For example, scientists estimate San Francisco will experience five times more high-tide flood days in the next decade than it does now.
To arrive at their disturbing conclusion, NASA researchers reviewed data from tide gauges located in coastal communities in every state and territory but Alaska, which, due to its position on the globe, is not expected to face higher tides due to the moon wobble. The research was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Buyers and owners of real estate currently experiencing sea level rise flooding or located in communities that flood need to add the wobble into their long-term property ownership decisions. Flooding is already forcing the government and property owners to spend billions of dollars to fend off floodwaters and protect critical infrastructure. A sudden leap will only worsen property damage and result in higher outlays for maintenance, taxes and insurance.
NASA scientists crunched data from satellite missions to determine that ice melt in Antarctica and Greenland over the last 16 years raised sea levels about half an inch. Put another way, the researchers said both locations contributed 5,000 gigatons of water to the oceans which is enough to fill Lake Michigan.
Ice melt and ocean expansion due to global warming are the primary contributors to sea level rise. Experts are concerned that the rate of melting is picking up pace. Helen Fricker, a glaciologist at the University of California-San Diego, told National Public Radio, “How much ice we are going to lose, and how quickly we are going to lose it, is a really key thing that needs to be understood, so that we can plan.”
There are two main forces driving the melting in Antarctica and Greenland. In Antarctica, warming oceans are melting floating ice shelves, which is allowing land based ice to flow into the ocean. In Greenland, warmer atmospheric temperatures are melting ice and creating run-off. At the same time, the warmer air is also causing glacial ice to calve off and fall into the ocean.
If all the ice melted in Greenland alone, scientists estimate global sea levels would rise 23 feet. Fricker told NPR, “There’s a lot of infrastructure and airports and people that live right on the ocean, and these people are going to feel the effects of sea level rise that’s resulted because the ice sheets have melted.”
NASA reported this week that Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets are melting six times faster than they did in the 1990s, a development that could have a severe impact on coastal real estate.
NASA scientists published their statement on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory website in response to a study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that showed Greenland and Antarctica combined lost 6.4 trillion tons of ice in three decades. “Unabated, this rate of melting could cause flooding that affects hundreds of millions of people by 2100,” according to NASA.
Researchers used observations from 11 satellite’s that monitor Greenland and Antarctica ice loss to arrive at their disturbing conclusion. They calculate that the meltwater has raised global sea level by .7 inches. This doesn’t sound like much, but it can have a significant effect on coastal populations. “Every centimeter of sea level rise leads to coastal flooding and coastal erosion, disrupting people’s lives around the planet,” said Prof. Andrew Shepherd, a scientist at the University of Leeds.
Ice melt isn’t the only factor fueling sea level rise. Ocean heating and expansion and the melting of smaller land-based glaciers also contribute to higher seas.