US: The new Jason-3 satellite has prepared a map that shows an alarming situation of rising ocean levels due to climate change. The map also features 24 years of previous measurements. The first complete map of sea levels was released by NASA in mid-March.
“This is a continuation of probably one of the most iconic time series demonstrations of sea level rise and global warming,” said Bill Patzert, a climatologist with NASA. To Patzert, these measurements are proof of manmade climate change. “As we add more and more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, it increases the heating of the Earth, and of course 95% of all that heat is being absorbed into the oceans,” Patzert said.
“As oceans heat, they expand, so sea level rise is really the unequivocal proof of global warming,” Patzert added. Jason-3 was launched on Jan. 17 from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base and is a collaborative mission between NOAA, NASA, the French Space Agency CNES, and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).
The mission continues nearly a quarter-century of global sea level measurements taken from space using satellites. The first mission began in 1992 with TOPEX/Poseidon, and was followed by Jason-1 in 2001 and Jason-2 in 2008.
Thanks to the decades-long record, researchers can now differentiate the short-term variation due to events like El Niño or Pacific Decadal Oscillation—which can cause sea levels to rise in the eastern Pacific and drop in the western, or visa versa, for 10-15 years at a time—from the slow yet consistent rise due to manmade climate change.
“There are these large changes due to El Niño or decadal variation in ocean climate, but what is relentless is the global rise in average sea level across the entire planet. One is man-made and one is natural,” Patzert said.
“The slow rise in sea level of about one inch per decade, that’s due to us,” Patzert said. Other experts agreed that a continual rise in ocean heights was apparent in the data. “The combination of old and new satellites provides a continuous global map of sea level that goes back several decades now,” Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at the Pennsylvania State University, said.
That provides the scientific community with “an important source of information regarding global sea level rise,” Mann added. Jason-3, the fourth mission in the series, flies over 800 miles high in space and uses altimetry to measure sea levels to “within a centimeter,” Patzert said. He also added that climate change “is a very dangerous experiment that is underway.”