On Thursday, climate scientists made an alarming statement regarding the environment. They announced they might have discovered a signal that points to a major sea level rise that is imminent.
The discoveries show that the sea surface temperature of today is dangerously similar to that registered approximately 125,000 years ago, during the Earth’s warmest period. What is worrying for the scientists is the fact that, back then, sea level was 20 or 30 feet above that of today. So, are we in danger of a sudden sea level rise?
The results may help the climate scientists understand how oceans will respond to the warming taking place nowadays. Earth has shifting periods of warm and cold that occur after tens of thousands of years. They are caused by changes in our exposure to the Sun, which is due to naturally occurring events, such as variations in the orbit of our planet, but also due to greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere.
However, the natural shifts are outnumbered by the much faster process of warming overcoming the Earth. As humans continuously burn fossil fuels and send carbon emissions that trap the heat, the ice melts and, consequently, the sea level rises.
The scientists studied 83 marine sediment core sites and gathered information on how Earth behaved during its warmest periods. They compared these sites with samples from 1870-1899 and 1995-2014. They discovered that ocean surface temperature back then was already similar to that from 1870-1899. Then, 4,000 years after, the temperature rose and became indistinguishable from that of 1995-2014.
This shows that some of the models estimated some time ago might be faulty. This caused the scientists to predict that Earth would face many stages of sea level rise, this causing many coastal regions to be swallowed by waters. They could not predict how quickly this would happen, but the findings are already cause for alarm.
Richard Allan, professor of climate science at the University of Reading, is a little optimistic. He said that it might take thousands of years for the sea to reach alarming levels, so a cut in fossil fuel use might actually be of help.
The study shows how changes in ocean temperature and sea level rise that once occurred over millennia now took place only in a century. This should raise awareness on the imminent dangers and motivate people to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
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