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Hydrology

Stored water slows rising seas

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Changes in water storage on land may have slowed sea-level rise during the past decade.

John Reager of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and his team investigated the shifting volumes of water stored on land using global data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite, which calculates water and ice mass on the basis of changes in Earth's gravity field. They found that between 2002 and 2014, 3,200 gigatons more water than expected was stored on land as snow, soil moisture, surface water and groundwater, thanks to climate-driven changes in hydrology. This offset sea-level rise caused by melting glaciers and ice sheets by about 20% over the same period.

These results show that climate-driven land water storage is significant enough to be included in future estimates of sea-level rise, the authors say.

Science 351, 699–703 (2016)

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Stored water slows rising seas. Nature 530, 257 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/530257b

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