Rutgers-Harvard Team: Sea Levels Rising More Rapidly Than Previously Thought

NJ Spotlight | January 21, 2015 | Energy & Environment, Sandy
Melting ice caps and rising global temperatures at heart of wide-ranging study -- which says NJ and East Coast are on 'front line' of crisis

sandy sea level rise
There was a time — during a period of global warming 125,000 years ago — when sea levels may have been almost 20 feet higher than they are today, with waves breaking near where today’s Garden State Parkway borders the South Jersey marshlands.

That probably won’t happen anytime soon. But a team of researchers and scientists from Rutgers and Harvard universities say sea levels worldwide have risen about 2.5 times faster during the past 20 years than they did in the preceding eight decades of the 20th century — and that New Jersey and the East Coast are “on the front line” of the looming crisis. They reported their findings in a newly published study in the journal “Nature.”

One of the findings was that ocean levels actually rose at a slower rate than thought during that 80-year-period — which means that sea levels are now rising at a faster rate than previously calculated, possibly rising 3 feet or more by the end of the century — prompting some experts to recommend that Jersey Shore homeowner hit by Hurricane Sandy rebuild their homes several feet higher than recommended in federal guidelines.

The new calculation of a lower rate of 20th-century rise “makes the ice sheet melt of the past two decades even more stark by comparison,” said co-author Robert Kopp, an associate professor with the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at Rutgers, and associate director of the Rutgers Energy Institute.

Read the full Rutgers Today report on the study.