Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

After a three-decade hiatus, sea-level rise may return to N. America's West Coast

Date:
May 6, 2011
Source:
University of California, San Diego
Summary:
The West Coast of North America has caught a break that has left sea level in the eastern North Pacific Ocean steady during the last few decades, but there is evidence that a change in wind patterns may be occurring that could cause coastal sea-level rise to accelerate beginning this decade.

The West Coast of North America has caught a break that has left sea level in the eastern North Pacific Ocean steady during the last few decades, but there is evidence that a change in wind patterns may be occurring that could cause coastal sea-level rise to accelerate beginning this decade.

That is the conclusion of researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, who said that conditions dominated by cold surface waters along the West Coast could soon flip to an opposite state.

"There are indications that this is what might be happening right now," said Peter Bromirski, lead author of a study now in press in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans, published by the American Geophysical Union.

Global sea level rose during the 20th Century at a rate of about two millimeters (.08 inches) per year. That rate increased by 50% during the 1990s to a global rate of three millimeters (.12 inches) per year, an uptick frequently linked to global warming. Rising sea level has consequences for coastal development, beach erosion and wetlands inundation. Higher sea levels could cause increased damage to coastal communities and beaches, especially during coincident high tides, storm surges and extreme wave conditions.

Several state and federal agencies, led by the California Department of Boating and Waterways, funded the study. Support also came from NOAA, the National Science Foundation, and the California Energy Commission.

Scientists date the current phase of a Pacific Ocean climate cycle called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) to the mid- to late-1970s. The current "warm" phase is characterized by the upward movement, or upwelling, of cold water toward the surface along the West Coast. Despite a few El Niño-induced surges in sea level during that time, the coastal sea level trend has mostly been steady.

When the cycle shifts to its negative "cold" phase, coastal ocean waters will become characterized more by a downwelling regime, where the amount of colder, denser water currently brought to the surface will be reduced. Resulting warmer surface water will raise sea level.

Bromirski and fellow Scripps oceanographers Art Miller, Reinhard Flick and Guillermo Auad (now at the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation & Enforcement) studied the wind stress patterns that characterize the different phases of the PDO. Wind stresses can act to change the characteristics of the coastal upwelling/downwelling regime, i.e. suppress or raise sea level.

The authors write that the characteristics of wind stress variability over the eastern North Pacific "recently reached levels not observed since before the mid-1970s regime shift. This change in wind stress patterns may be foreshadowing a PDO regime shift, causing an associated persistent change …that will result in a concomitant resumption of sea level rise along the U.S. West Coast to global or even higher rates."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California, San Diego. The original article was written by Robert Monroe. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California, San Diego. "After a three-decade hiatus, sea-level rise may return to N. America's West Coast." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110505170129.htm>.
University of California, San Diego. (2011, May 6). After a three-decade hiatus, sea-level rise may return to N. America's West Coast. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110505170129.htm
University of California, San Diego. "After a three-decade hiatus, sea-level rise may return to N. America's West Coast." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110505170129.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) — Rescuers were forced to suspend plans to recover at least two dozen bodies from near the summit of Mount Ontake in central Japan on Tuesday after increased seismic activity raised concern about the possibility of another eruption. (Sept. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Balloon Descends to Bottom of Croatian Cave

Raw: Balloon Descends to Bottom of Croatian Cave

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) — An Austrian balloon pilot has succeeded in taking a balloon deep underground, a feat which he believes is a world first. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bodies Recovered from Japan Volcano Eruption

Bodies Recovered from Japan Volcano Eruption

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) — Rescue crews finished recovering the remaining 27 bodies from atop Japan's Mount Ontake Monday. At least 31 people were killed Saturday in the mountain's first fatal volcanic event in modern history. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins