Atlantic waters rising at fastest rate in 2,000 years

Photo: Milan Boers on Flickr.

The sea level rise off the U.S. Atlantic shoreline is rising faster than any time in the past 2,000 years, according to a new study published this week.

Since the 19th century, sea level has shot up more than 2 millimeters per year on average, far faster than other periods of global temperature change.

Yale University-led scientists came to that conclusion by reconstructing the first continuous sea-level rise rates for the past two millennia and then comparing it to variations in global temperature.

They used tiny fossils — foraminifera — that were preserved in sediment cores in coastal North Carolina salt marshes. The age of the cores was estimated with radiocarbon dating. The core samples were then tested against tide-gauge measurements and then corrected against the vertical movement of the land.

The researchers found a fairly stable sea level from 200 BC to 1,000 AD. Then a rise during the 11th century of about half a millimeter per year, linked to a warm period known as the Medieval Climate Anomaly. Following that, they could see a swing back towards glaciers during the Little Ice Age.

The results confirm previous estimates of sea level rise and point as further evidence that humans are at the helm of modern day climate change. The study was published in this week’s journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.