November 18, 2017 2:02 pm
Updated: November 18, 2017 2:53 pm

NASA tool shows how rising sea levels will affect New York, London, other coastal cities

Small iceberg in an ice fjord is seen in southern Greenland. Sea levels are projected to rise by between one and four feet around the world by 2100.

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A new tool developed by NASA scientists can pinpoint which glaciers and ice sheets are contributing to changing sea levels in almost 300 coastal cities.

The Gradient Fingerprint Mapping Simulation allows users to spin a virtual globe and select one of hundreds of coastal cities, which will then produce a small blurb about how much sea levels are projected to rise in the area and the name of the contributing glacier.

NASA launches a new tool that reveals projected sea level rise by coastal city.

NASA

The accompanying study analyzes 293 major port cities and aims to let coastal planners accurately calculate local sea level changes as well as know which melting parts of the Earth’s polar ice cap present the biggest risks to each region.

“This study allows one person to understand which icy areas of the world will contribute most significantly to sea level change [rise or decrease] in their specific city,” Eric Larour, the project lead for NASA JPL’s Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM) and lead author of the study, told CNN.


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Early in November, the U.S. government released a major climate change report which revealed sea levels have risen by between seven and eight inches since 1900, with the last 25 years making up almost half that increase. While sea levels were projected to rise by between one and four feet around the world by 2100, the report acknowledged that the changes will be different for everyone.

READ MORE: U.S. report blames ‘human activity’ for climate change, directly contradicting Trump

For example, the tool shows that the impact of Greenland melting will pose challenges for major metropolises like New York and London. The study reveals that as quadrants of Greenland continue to melt, both New York and London are vulnerable to rising sea levels.

NASA launches a new tool that reveals projected sea level rise by coastal city.

NASA

While New York residents will primarily receive contributions from the northwest and northeast quadrants of Greenland, London residents should be more concerned about the northwest portion of the island.

The study found that because of gravity, the biggest contributions to local sea level rise would come from glaciers and ice sheets farthest away from the cities.

“Ice sheets are so heavy, that when they melt, the gravity field is modified, and the ocean is less attracted to the ice mass,” Larour told CNN. “This means that locally, close to the ice change itself, sea level will decrease.”

For this reason, cities like Halifax and Reykjavik, Iceland, may actually see sea levels decrease.

READ MORE: N.S. at risk of becoming an island if action isn’t taken, municipal leaders warn

Knowing more about how much the ocean will rise by specific dates will be extremely useful to city planners laying out strategies to mitigate this issue.

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