Sea level rise: a 50 cent explanation

More blue is on the way

What’s the deal, why are sea levels rising?

Here’s the low down from Josh Willis, an oceanographer at JPL, “What’s happening with the planet right now is that it’s heating up and the main reason it’s heating up is because of green house gases in the atmosphere, like carbon dioxide, that are put there by human activity,” said Willis.

“As it warms up, two things happen to the oceans, one is that the ocean heats up. The ocean gets warmer and whenever the ocean warms, it actually expands and takes up more room. So about a third of sea level rise today is because of this warming, taking up more space because it’s hotter,” said Willis.

“The rest of sea level rise comes from melting glaciers and ice sheets. Glaciers and ice sheets are giant water holding devices that sit on top of mountains or in the case of Greenland and Antarctica that cover entire continents. When they melt, that water runs back into the ocean and causes sea level to rise. So that’s a 50 cent explanation.”

So warmer water expanding and frozen water melting adds up to sea level rise. Stay tuned for a future post with more detailed information on what’s happening along California’s coast, it turns out that sea level rise is a bit more complicated than a 50 cent explanation.

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