The warming of Earth is primarily due to accumulation of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, and more than 90 percent of this trapped heat is absorbed by the oceans. As this heat is absorbed, ocean temperatures rise and water expands. This thermal expansion contributes to an increase in global sea level. Temperature measurements of the sea surface, taken by ships, satellites and drifting sensors, along with subsurface measurements and observations of global sea-level rise, have shown that the warming of the upper ocean caused sea level to rise due to thermal expansion in the 20th century. Using measurements from Argo profiling floats, we know this warming has continued, causing roughly one-third of the global sea-level rise observed by satellite altimeters since 2004.
NASA Sea Level Change Team member Robert Kopp uses data on past sea-level rise to improve forecasts of what's to come – and to help coastal planners prepare.
The researchers shared their latest findings, and discussed how to make sea-level science more useful to planners and others preparing for changes on the U.S. coast.
To better predict changes in Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier, sea-level scientists turn their focus to the bedrock beneath.
The Surface Water and Ocean Topography mission will explore how the ocean absorbs atmospheric heat and carbon, moderating global temperatures and climate change.
In a question and answer session, ice sheet researcher Sophie Nowicki, a member of the NASA Sea Level Change Team, discusses a new era in sea-level research.