Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Littlest continent had biggest role in sea level drop

Date:
August 21, 2013
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
A unique and complex set of circumstances came together over Australia from 2010 to 2011 to cause Earth's smallest continent to be the biggest contributor to the observed drop in global sea level rise during that time, finds a new study co-authored and co-funded by NASA.

Changes in Australia's mass as reported by data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites from June 2010 to February 2011. Areas in greens and blues depict the greatest increases in mass, caused by excessive precipitation. The contour lines represent various land surface elevations. A new study co-authored and co-funded by NASA finds extensive flooding in Australia, combined with the continent's soils and unique topography, were the biggest contributors to the drop in global sea level observed in 2010 and 2011.
Credit: NCAR/NASA/JPL-Caltech

A unique and complex set of circumstances came together over Australia from 2010 to 2011 to cause Earth's smallest continent to be the biggest contributor to the observed drop in global sea level rise during that time, finds a new study co-authored and co-funded by NASA.

In 2011, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the University of Colorado at Boulder reported that between early 2010 and summer 2011, global sea level fell sharply, by about a quarter of an inch, or half a centimeter. Using data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) spacecraft, they showed that the drop was caused by the very strong La Nina that began in late 2010. That La Nina changed rainfall patterns all over our planet, moving huge amounts of Earth's water from the ocean to the continents. The phenomenon was short-lived, however.

By mid-2012, global mean sea level had resumed its long-term mean annual rise of 0.13 inches (3.2 millimeters) per year (see http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-362 ).

But analyses of the historical record showed that past La Nina events only rarely accompanied such a pronounced drop in sea level. So what made this particular La Nina unique?

To better understand this phenomenon, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo.; JPL; and the University of Colorado at Boulder combined GRACE data with data from the Argo global array of 3,000 free-drifting floats and satellite altimeters (Jason-1, Jason-2 and Topex/Poseidon).

They found that three atmospheric patterns converged over the Indian and Pacific Oceans in 2010 and 2011 to drive excessive precipitation over Australia. On average, the continent received almost one foot (300 millimeters) of rain more than normal. The result was widespread flooding. The flooding was in large part prevented from running back into the ocean by Australia's dry soils and the mountain-ringed topography of the country's vast interior, called the Outback, leading to the measurable drop in the world's ocean levels.

"No other continent has this combination of atmospheric set-up and topography," said NCAR scientist John Fasullo, lead author of the study. "Only in Australia could the atmosphere carry such heavy tropical rains to such a large area, only to have those rains fail to make their way to the ocean."

Now that the atmospheric patterns have snapped back and more rain is falling over tropical oceans, the seas are rising again. In fact, with Australia in a major drought, they are rising faster than before. Since 2011, when the atmospheric patterns shifted out of their unusual combination, sea levels have been rising at a faster pace of about 0.4 inches (10 millimeters) per year.

The study, co-funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation, will be published next month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

For more information, read the full NCAR news release: http://www2.ucar.edu/atmosnews/news/10090/global-sea-level-rise-dampened-australia-floods .


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. John T. Fasullo, Carmen Boening, Felix W. Landerer, R. Steven Nerem. Australia's unique influence on global sea level in 2010-2011. Geophysical Research Letters, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/grl.50834

Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Littlest continent had biggest role in sea level drop." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130821144831.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2013, August 21). Littlest continent had biggest role in sea level drop. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130821144831.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Littlest continent had biggest role in sea level drop." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130821144831.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. Video provided by Newsy
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:

More Coverage


Global Sea Level Rise Dampened by Australia Floods

Aug. 19, 2013 — When enough raindrops fall over land instead of the ocean, they begin to add up. New research led by shows that three atmospheric patterns drove so much precipitation over Australia in 2010 and 2011 ... read more
from the past week

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