Climate change, natural variability combine to create extreme events

Sea level rise off Indonesia worsened by warming temperatures, natural ocean oscillations

Dec 16, 2022 - by Staff

An international team of researchers who examined high sea levels off Indonesia has demonstrated the extent to which the compounding impacts of warming temperatures and natural variability can create extreme events.

The new study, led by the University of Colorado Boulder and co-authored by four scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), used computer models and data from tidal gauges and satellites to identify why sea levels along the Indian Ocean coast of Indonesia reached extreme heights from 2010 to 2017. They traced the causes to a combination of climate change and natural climate cycles linked to oscillations of sea surface temperatures in the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Sea levels worldwide have risen by an average of 8 to 9 inches since 1880 because of warming temperatures associated with greenhouse gas emissions. The amount of sea level rise varies greatly from one region to another and fluctuates with tides or storm surges. Higher sea levels can cause flooding, erosion, saltwater contamination of water supplies, and other serious risks for people living along the coast.

“This research emphasizes the need to better understand the interplay between human-caused climate change and natural climate variability in order to better prepare for the impacts of regional sea level rise,” said NCAR scientist Aixue Hu, a co-author of the study.

The study was published in Nature Communications. For more, see the University of Colorado Boulder news release.

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