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Feb 27, 2015 4:54 PM

Sea level rises significantly over 2-year period; researchers say trends will continue


SEACOAST - Sea levels in the northeast rose about 4 inches in 2009 and 2010, the most significant increase on record since data started being collected in the early 1900's.

Researchers from NOAA and the University of Arizona released the report ahead of an upcoming issue of Nature Communications.

Scientists say they were surprised by the length of time they saw the increase, and that the sea level rising happened over years - not months.

They also said it was not caused by anything extraordinary.

"It was not related to a tropical cyclone, a nor'easter, [or] necessarily one particular storm," NOAA oceanographer Stephen Griffies told NH1 news. "It was more of a trend over these two years that was fairly large scale in this part of the world."

Called an ‘unusual spike' in sea levels, researchers say it's due to changes in ocean circulation.

The team also reports that with an increasing rate of the amount of carbon dioxide, similar events are likely to continue occurring in the future.

"We looked at projections over the next century, and we saw that these sea level spikes are likely to increase in magnitude and frequency in the future," said Paul Goddard of the University of Arizona. "So I can say that it's likely that these sea level spikes in the Northeast Region will increase in the future from our model studies."

Goddard is a doctoral candidate in geosciences.

Many who work daily along the NH seacoast said they hadn't noticed anything significant, but Rye Harbormaster Leo Axtin said that an additional 4 inches of sea level at low tide could actually be beneficial to fishermen and charter tours in NH - stating that right now, many boats scrape the bottom.

"I would assume we are talking about the so-called four inches on top of what the so-called ‘normal published tides' are." Axtin said. "I suggest that's quite significant."

But researchers warn it could be much more devastating.

One impact could be significant flooding - which has already occurred as a result of the levels rising - in other parts of the country.


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