NASA says west coast sea levels could be poised to rise
KQED reports that the west coast has gotten off easy on sea level rise so far, but that may be about to change.
“In the next five or ten years, I think the west coast of the United States is going to catch up,” says Josh Willis, a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. He says a major ocean phase known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation is in the midst of a big shift.
For about the past two decades, the PDO, which Willis describes as “El Niño’s bigger, slower, brother,” was “piling up” warmer water on the far side of the ocean, exacerbating sea rise there. When water warms, it expands.
“So we’ve actually seen a slight drop in sea levels off of our coastline because of the rearrangement of heat within the oceans,” Willis explains.
That rearrangement could mean an acceleration in the rate that seas rise long the West Coast, eventually overtaking the pace of sea level rise on the East Coast and elsewhere.