- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published over 2 years ago
Using a 25-y time series of precision satellite altimeter data from TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1, Jason-2, and Jason-3, we estimate the climate-change-driven acceleration of global mean sea level over the last 25 y to be 0.084 ± 0.025 mm/y2Coupled with the average climate-change-driven rate of sea level rise over these same 25 y of 2.9 mm/y, simple extrapolation of the quadratic implies global mean sea level could rise 65 ± 12 cm by 2100 compared with 2005, roughly in agreement with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report (AR5) model projections.
Global mean sea level rise estimated from satellite altimetry provides a strong constraint on climate variability and change and is expected to accelerate as the rates of both ocean warming and cryospheric mass loss increase over time. In stark contrast to this expectation however, current altimeter products show the rate of sea level rise to have decreased from the first to second decades of the altimeter era. Here, a combined analysis of altimeter data and specially designed climate model simulations shows the 1991 eruption of Mt Pinatubo to likely have masked the acceleration that would have otherwise occurred. This masking arose largely from a recovery in ocean heat content through the mid to late 1990 s subsequent to major heat content reductions in the years following the eruption. A consequence of this finding is that barring another major volcanic eruption, a detectable acceleration is likely to emerge from the noise of internal climate variability in the coming decade.
Contemporary applications of radar altimetry include sea-level rise, ocean circulation, marine gravity, and icesheet elevation change. Unlike InSAR and GNSS, which are widely used to map surface deformation, altimetry is neither reliant on highly temporally-correlated ground features nor as limited by the available spatial coverage, and can provide long-term temporal subsidence monitoring capability. Here we use multi-mission radar altimetry with an approximately 23 year data-span to quantify land subsidence in cropland areas. Subsidence rates from TOPEX/POSEIDON, JASON-1, ENVISAT, and JASON-2 during 1992-2015 show time-varying trends with respect to displacement over time in California’s San Joaquin Valley and central Taiwan, possibly related to changes in land use, climatic conditions (drought) and regulatory measures affecting groundwater use. Near Hanford, California, subsidence rates reach 18 cm yr(-1) with a cumulative subsidence of 206 cm, which potentially could adversely affect operations of the planned California High-Speed Rail. The maximum subsidence rate in central Taiwan is 8 cm yr(-1). Radar altimetry also reveals time-varying subsidence in the North China Plain consistent with the declines of groundwater storage and existing water infrastructure detected by the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, with rates reaching 20 cm yr(-1) and cumulative subsidence as much as 155 cm.