Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

Rising Seas Slowed by Increasing Water on Land
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Feb 12, 2016

Earth's land masses have stored increasing amounts of water in the last decade, slowing the pace of sea level rise.

New measurements from a NASA satellite have allowed researchers to identify and quantify, for the first time, how climate-driven increases of liquid water storage on land have affected the rate of sea level rise.

A new study by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and the University of California, Irvine, shows that while ice sheets and glaciers continue to melt, changes in weather and climate over the past decade have caused Earth's continents to soak up and store an extra 3.2 trillion tons of water in soils, lakes and underground aquifers, temporarily slowing the rate of sea level rise by about 20 percent.

The water gains over land were spread globally, but taken together they equal the volume of Lake Huron, the world's seventh largest lake. The study is published in the Feb. 12 issue of the journal Science.

Each year, a large amount of water evaporates from the ocean, falls over land as rain or snow, and returns to the ocean through runoff and river flows. This is known as the global hydrologic, or water, cycle. Scientists have long known small changes in the hydrologic cycle - by persistent regional changes in soil moisture or lake levels, for instance - could change the rate of sea level rise from what we would expect based on ice sheet and glacier melt rates. However, they did not know how large the land storage effect would be because there were no instruments that could accurately measure global changes in liquid water on land.

"We always assumed that people's increased reliance on groundwater for irrigation and consumption was resulting in a net transfer of water from the land to the ocean," said lead author J.T. Reager of JPL, who began work on the study as a graduate student at UC Irvine. "What we didn't realize until now is that over the past decade, changes in the global water cycle more than offset the losses that occurred from groundwater pumping, causing the land to act like a sponge - at least temporarily.

"These new data are vital for understanding decadal variations in sea level change," Reager added. "The information will be a critical complement to future long-term projections of sea level rise, which depend on melting ice and warming oceans."

The 2002 launch of NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) twin satellites provided the first tool capable of quantifying land liquid water storage trends. By measuring the distance between the two GRACE satellites to within the width of a strand of human hair as they orbit Earth, researchers can detect changes in Earth's gravitational pull that result from regional changes in the amount of water across Earth's surface. With careful analysis of these data, JPL scientists were able to measure the change in liquid water storage on the continents, as well as the changes in ice sheets and glaciers.

"These results will lead to a refinement of global sea level budgets, such as those presented in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, which acknowledge the importance of climate-driven changes in hydrology, but have been unable to include any reliable estimate of their contribution to sea level changes," said JPL senior water scientist Jay Famiglietti, senior author of the paper and a UCI professor.

Famiglietti also noted the study is the first to observe global patterns of changes in land water storage, with wet regions getting more wet and dry areas getting drier.

"These patterns are consistent with earlier observations of changing precipitation over both land and oceans, and with IPCC projections of changing precipitation under a warming climate," he said. "But we'll need a much longer data record to fully understand the underlying cause of the patterns and whether they will persist."

NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.


Related Links
Sea level at JPL
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Inland fisheries determined to surface as food powerhouse
East Lansing MI (SPX) Feb 11, 2016
No longer satisfied to be washed out by epic seas and vast oceans, the world's lakes, rivers, streams, canals, reservoirs and other land-locked waters continue a push to be recognized - and properly managed - as a global food security powerhouse. In an article by Environmental Reviews, authors, which include six either currently affiliated with Michigan State University (MSU) and/or are al ... read more

NATO to debate Turkey call for migrant help

Taiwan developer grilled over collapse of quake building

Prosecutors seek developer's detention after Taiwan collapse

Fukushima plant boss says another disaster won't threaten clean-up

Scientists bridge different materials by design

Body temperature triggers newly developed polymer to change shape

Making sense of metallic glass

Twisted X-rays unravel the complexity of helical structures

Study accurately dates coral loss at Great Barrier Reef

Iraq says risk to Mosul Dam affecting anti-IS drive

Flint mayor demands lead pipes be replaced after scandal

Iraq's largest dam at 'higher risk' of failure: US

New 'Little Ice Age' coincides with fall of Eastern Roman Empire and growth of Arab Empire

Antarctic ice safety band at risk

The shield is crumbling

Mysterious menominee crack is unusual geological pop-up feature

Oregano may reduce methane in cow burps

Agricultural policies in Africa could be harming the poorest

Climate change's frost harms early plant reproduction

One step closer to commercial edamame production in the US

Researchers find new cause of strong earthquakes

Record Missouri flooding was manmade calamity

Double dose of bad earthquake news

Behind the levees

Sudan names new military chief amid Darfur clashes: ministry

Gloom hangs over African mining as China growth slows

Nigeria army probes recent Boko Haram attacks

Five killed as jihadists attack UN camp in Mali

Early human ancestor did not have the jaws of a nutcracker

Wirelessly supplying power to brain

Humans evolved by sharing technology and culture

DNA evidence uncovers major upheaval in Europe near end of last Ice Age

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.