Left: Higher Pacific sea levels increase coastal flooding risks. Credit: Flickr user Alan Grinberg, "Coming Ashore!", CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Middle: One of many Greenland glaciers losing mass and contributing to sea level rise. Credit: NASA/OIB.
Right: Part of Massachusetts, a victim of nuisance flooding brought about by sea level rise. Astronaut photo ID: ISS028-E-9967.

Left: Higher Pacific sea levels increase coastal flooding risks. Credit: Flickr user Alan Grinberg, "Coming Ashore!", CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Middle: One of many Greenland glaciers losing mass and contributing to sea level rise. Credit: NASA/OIB.
Right: Part of Massachusetts, a victim of nuisance flooding brought about by sea level rise. Astronaut photo ID: ISS028-E-9967.

NASA recently selected a second round of projects for NASA’s Sea Level Rise Program and a new Sea Level Change Team (N-SLCT).

The selected projects were chosen based on four critical factors to improve our understanding of sea level change:

  1. Characterizing current changes in sea level: Global and regional sea level projections that extrapolate from satellite and contemporary observations
  2. Characterizing underlying processes and improving predictions of regional variations in sea level
  3. Improving knowledge of ice mass change that specifically improves estimates of current and future sea level rise
  4. Integrating these results into better forecasts of sea level rise

The results of these investigations are being integrated as new tools, new datasets, and science highlights into the NASA Web Portal for Sea Level Change (launched December 2015). This portal has been established particularly to facilitate interdisciplinary research by providing tools, data, and new science that contributes to sea level research.

"Over the last three years, the N-SLCT has made progress on a number of important problems, including development of a better understanding of ice sheet dynamics, better estimates of vertical crustal motion that can exacerbate sea level rise, and better tools for computing the regional impacts of sea level change due to ice mass loss," said N-SLCT’s 2014-2017 Team Leader Steve Nerem of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research. "The team also developed new estimates of the acceleration of sea level change and a more detailed understanding of how nuisance flooding is made worse by sea level rise, and also identified the most important problems to tackle in the next three years.”

The torch now passes to Ben Hamlington of the Old Dominion University Research Foundation, Norfolk, Virginia. “Under Steve’s guidance, the work of the previous team laid the foundation for the second team. Many of the issues associated with projecting regional sea level change are better understood and the tools developed will play a big role in our push towards creating products that can be useful for coastal planning efforts," Hamlington said. "Going forward, we want our work to be informed by the needs of decision-makers. Our goal by the end of the next three years is to have an improved set of regional sea level projections across a range of temporal and spatial scales that can be shared on the NASA Web portal. We are well positioned to do exactly that with the hard work of the previous team and the great group of scientists on the new team.”

The selected investigations will address the following topics:

Identifying, quantifying, and projecting decadal sea level change
Benjamin Hamlington, Old Dominion University Research Foundation

Understanding current and projected sea level change with multi-satellite observations, modeling and climate system assimilation
Sophie Nowicki, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

Understanding and predicting coastal sea level variability around the United States
Manoochehr Shirzaei, Arizona State University, Tempe

Using satellite measurements to improve regional estimates of the impacts of sea level change
Robert Nerem, University Of Colorado, Boulder

Global interconnections of cryosphere and solid Earth, sea-level change and ice mass balance
Erik Ivins, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California

A NASA web portal for sea level change
Carmen Boening, JPL

21st century regional sea level projections due to land ice mass losses and geodynamic adjustments using 3-D Earth models
Regine Hock, University Of Alaska, Fairbanks

Quantifying and reducing uncertainty in future global and local sea-level estimates: linking physics, observations, and risk analysis to inform climate adaptation
Isabella Velicogna, University Of California, Irvine