By Beth Daley, Globe Staff
It’s been a debate among climate scientists for years: How much will sea level rise from climate change?
A watery view of Boston (Globe staff photo/David Ryan)
Now, a new study led by the Colorado-based National Center for Atmospheric Research shows that the melting of the Greenland ice sheet this century may result in far higher sea levels in Boston and other Northeastern communities in the U.S. and Canada.
The study, being published in Geophysical Research Letters, says if the Greenland ice sheet melts at moderate to high rates, ocean circulation patterns may shift and cause sea levels off the Northeast U.S. to rise about 12 to 20 inches more than other coastal areas.
"If the Greenland melt continues to accelerate, we could see significant impacts this century on the northeast U.S. coast from the resulting sea level rise," says NCAR scientist Aixue Hu, the lead author. "Major northeastern cities are directly in the path of the greatest rise."
The study builds upon a study released in March that warned warmer water temperatures could alter ocean currents so that Northeast U.S. sea levels would rise more than the average global increase. But that study did not include what would happen if Greenland’s ice melted at moderate to high rates.
The study also shines a light on a fact about the ocean that many people may not realize: Unlike water in a pool, water levels in the world’s oceans are anything but uniform. Sea level can vary by several feet from one region to another, depending on ocean circulation and other factors.
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