Sea level rise slowed by increasingly wet soils

Thursday 14 August 2014

During the last decade, a fifth of the water from melting pole and glacier ice was stored on land and so did not contribute to sea level rise. This is the conclusion of a new study led by ANU researchers, and published in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 1–19, 2014. The team, led by Professor Albert van Dijk from the Fenner School, along with Luigi. J. Renzullo (CSIRO Land and Water, Canberra, Australia), Yoshihide. Wada (Department of Physical Geography, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands), and Paul. Tregoning (Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia), was able to reconstruct detailed changes in the global water cycle using sophisticated computational methods to combine satellite observations, ground measurements and computer models.

Expressed in sea level change, water storage on land increased by almost 6 mm during the decade, mainly because of increasing storage in the soil and groundwater in cool regions in the northern hemisphere and in tropical monsoon regions. However, the mitigating effect on sea level was partly undone by the globally high rate of groundwater pumping, which removed 2.5 mm of water from the land. Ongoing monitoring of these trends will be needed to predict further water cycle changes in future.

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