“Global sea-level rise is, in a way, the most complete measure of how humans are changing the climate,” said Josh Willis, the mission’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “If you think about it, global sea-level rise means that 70 percent of Earth’s surface is getting taller — 70 percent of the planet is changing its shape and growing. So it’s the whole planet changing. That’s what we’re really measuring.” According to the NASA press release:
Decades of space- and ground-based observations have documented Earth’s surface temperature rising at a rapidly accelerating rate. The oceans help to stabilize our climate by absorbing over 90 percent of the heat trapped on the planet by excess greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, that have been emitted into the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Revolution.
As the oceans warm, they expand, increasing the volume of water; the trapped heat also melts ice sheets and glaciers, contributing further to sea-level rise. The rate at which it is rising has accelerated over the past 25 years and is expected to continue accelerating in years to come.
Sentinel-6/Jason-CS will measure down to the millimeter how much global sea level rises during the 2020s and how fast that rise accelerates.
We two-leggeds seem drawn to inhabit dangerous places despite their natural hazards, whether for the attraction of culture, as in Venice or San Francisco, or for the natural beauty, as in the forested hillsides near Yellowstone or Mt. Etna. Infrequent hazards do not spark our fight or flight reflexes, and we tend to ignore them. The people in Paradise, California reacted too slowly to a wildfire that destroyed their town, and it cost lives, but they were lulled to that false security by long experience of tranquil mountain forests, the speed of previous wildfire progression, and what had seemed a good evacuation plan — pre-Anthropocene.
Mumbai underwater at daily high tide, 2050. Source: The New York Times
Only we can do that.