Sea Level Rise

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Fluctuations in the mass of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are of considerable importance to society because of their direct impact on global sea levels. In recent decades, ice losses from Antarctica and Greenland, in addition to melting of small glaciers and ice caps, and thermal expansion of the oceans, has caused global sea levels to rise at an average rate of 3.1 millimeters per year (Solomon et al., 2007) (see figure below). Forecasts indicate that rising sea levels will continue into the future at a rate that could pose a serious threat to lives and livelihoods across the globe, jeopardizing, for example, sanitation, agriculture and homes (Parry et al., 2007). Lessening the impacts of sea level rise through effective adaptation and mitigation measures, relies upon accurate forecasts of its magnitude and rate; this, in turn, depends on our ability to accurately measure and understand each contributor to sea level rise.

Annually averaged global mean sea level (mm) from reconstructed tide-gauge
data (red), coastal tide gauge measurements (blue) and satellite altimetry (black).
Taken from the IPCC AR4 Working Group 1 report.