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Monday, November 28, 2022

UF researchers found global warming isn’t the only factor affecting sea level rise. Here’s what also does.

UF researchers have discovered that changes in air pressure contribute to rapid sea level rise in the east coast and are now looking to study the Caribbean Sea.

A group of UF scientists found that patterns in air pressure, naturally occurring phenomenons known as the North Atlantic Oscillation and the El Niño Southern Oscillation, cause areas along the coast to experience rises in sea level at rates almost 10 times the average, said Andrea Dutton, an assistant professor of geology at UF who worked on the research. They published their findings in August.

The sea level rises globally at a rate of about 12 inches every century, but in certain areas of the east coast, from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to Miami, the sea rose about five inches between 2011 and 2015, Dutton said. Now, the researchers are trying to discover a way to predict when air pressure will affect sea levels again.

“Five inches doesn’t seem like a lot but (it) can be the difference between the water coming up to the neighborhood next door or into your house,” Dutton said.

These findings will be important for coastal planning, Dutton said. While these cities may be prepared for flooding during storms, hurricanes during the past year, such as Harvey and Irma, were made even more deadly by a sea that was five inches higher than expected.

The periods of rapid sea level rise are not a new event, said Arnoldo Valle-Levinson, a professor of civil and coastal engineering at UF who also worked on the study.

The rapid sea level rise is not just limited to the east coast, Valle-Levinson said. It is likely occurring elsewhere in the Caribbean as well, which is where UF researchers are looking to turn their focus next.

“Sometimes the sea level will come up faster than the normal global rate, and other times it will not,” Valle-Levinson said. “You have wave-like attacks of sea level rise, so you have to be prepared for that.”

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