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Jul 04th
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Reports: Sea levels rising fastest along New Jersey coast


Looking for beachfront property in Berkeley Heights? Wait.

Confirming previous findings around the Atlantic Basin, a team of researchers has reported that sea levels along the East Coast are rising faster than at any time in the past 4,000 years.

And the place where the land is falling and the water advancing the fastest is New Jersey, according to teams led by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania. Two papers published in the journal Geology said several factors may be responsible, including the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

Although the increments are small, New Jersey is getting it from both directions, according to the surveys.

Many coastal areas have been dropping slightly since the end of the last Ice Age, and New Jersey happens to be one area where that is happening faster. The Mid-Atlantic region is subsiding twice as fast as coastal areas to the north and south, according to the researchers.

At the same time, global warming is speeding the rise of the Atlantic. The new data shows the annual rate during the 20th Century was two millimeters faster than during the previous four millennia, according to the studies.

In a previous report in Geology, the research team highlighted the ocean's rapid advance in an area of North Carolina. Their observations indicated the trend started between 1879 and 1915, along with advances in industrialization.

Among other things, the research suggests that the Greenland ice sheet may have begun melting well before humans noticed the loss.

"There is universal agreement that sea level will rise as a result of global warming, but by how much, when and where it will have the most effect is unclear," Penn Assistant Professor Benjamin P. Horton said in a statement released by the university.

The new findings, based on actual observation and measurement, should help in understanding "how sea level has responded to past climate changes and how these were influenced by geological events such as land movements," said Horton, who led the research with his colleague Simon E. Engelhart of Penn's department of earth and environmental science.

Their team included Bruce C. Douglas of the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University; W. Richard Peltier of the department of physics at the University of Toronto, and Torbjörn E. Törnqvist of the department of earth and environmental sciences and the Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane University.

The measurements provide support for climate models of the continuing effects of global warming. In March, a research team led a Florida State University researcher with help from a Princeton colleague projected that sea levels in the vicinity of New York City are likely to rise twice as fast as the global average.

In May, the National Center for Atmospheric Research also projected that continued melting of the Greenland ice cap could cause sea levels to rise one foot to 20 inches more in the northeastern United States and Canada than elsewhere.

"Major northeastern cities are directly in the path of the greatest rise," said the center's Aixue Hu, lead author of the study in Geophysical Research Letters.

New Jersey's neighborhood is not the only place in the North Atlantic where it is getting easier to get wet.

In October, a research team from the University of Southampton found sea levels have been rising over the past century along England's south coast, increasing the risk of flooding from storms.

That study, reported in Continental Shelf Research, included extensive compilation and examination of historical records. It found a steady rise in the Atlantic of 1.2 to 2.2 millimeters throughout the 20th Century.

Joe Tyrrell may be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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