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family members gather rocks and corals from the seabed to build a stone wall as protection against rising sea level

A family gather material for a wall against the rising Pacific Ocean, which is encroaching on their village in the island nation of Kiribati. Credit: Jonas Gratzer/Getty

Climate change

The rate of sea-level rise has surged for decades — and the trend will persist

Data from the 1990s showed an accelerated pace of sea-level rise, but new analysis shows that the speed-up started far earlier.

The rate of sea-level rise has accelerated year after year since the mid-1960s, when parts of the world’s oceans began to expand as seawater absorbed more heat.

Thanks to satellite observations that began in 1993, scientists know that Earth’s average sea-level rise has quickened in recent decades. But the onset of that acceleration — caused in the last two decades mainly by ever-faster ice loss in Greenland and Antarctica — has been unclear.

Sönke Dangendorf at the University of Siegen, Germany, and his colleagues reconstructed global and regional sea levels from 1900 to 2015, using statistical techniques to combine satellite measurements and tide-gauge records. They found that twentieth-century sea-level rise began to speed up around 1968 and has continuously accelerated since.

Seas probably began to climb in the 1960s because of ocean warming in the Southern Hemisphere. Accelerating ice loss and continued temperature-driven expansion of sea water in a warming climate are likely to further steepen the rate of sea-level rise over the next few decades, the authors say.

More Research Highlights...

Auroras on Jupiter

Jupiter’s aurora glows blue in this composite image. A newly detected radio signal might be the signature of a similar aurora on a planet in another solar system. Credit: NASA/ESA/J. Nichols, Univ. Leicester

Astronomy and astrophysics

Wiggly signal hints of an aurora on a planet far from the Solar System

A vast radio observatory on Earth detects signals similar to those generated by the aurora on Jupiter.
Members of the "Ice Memory project" extract an ice core piece out of a drill machine

Scientists extract an ice core from the Col du Dome glacier near the top of Mont Blanc in the French Alps. A similar core documents changes in emissions of an ozone-depleting gas. Credit: Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty

Atmospheric science

Ice on the Alps’s highest peak details a pollutant’s rise

A glacier on Mont Blanc provides a decades-long record of the use of bromine, which corrodes the ozone layer.
Jumping ant guarding pupae and larvae at the nest

The brain of an Indian jumping worker ant (above, guarding pupae and larvae) becomes smaller if she starts to lay eggs but can regrow to its old size if she stops reproducing. Credit: Martin Dohrn/Nature Picture Library


Ants shrink their brains for motherhood — but can enlarge them when egg-laying ends

Brain volume plummets in ‘gamergate’ ants that gain the ability to reproduce, but rises again with a fall in fertility.
A health worker puts on his personal protective equipment

A health worker in the Democratic Republic of the Congo prepares to care for people infected with Ebola virus during the 2018–20 outbreak, which prompted an extensive genomic analysis. Credit: John Wessels/AFP/Getty


An unprecedented genomic analysis helped to curb an Ebola outbreak

Despite extraordinary challenges, scientists managed to sequence a high percentage of Ebola virus genomes from a deadly wave of infections.
Ember and thick smoke from bushfires reach Braemar Bay in New South Wales

Vast bush fires that swept across Australia at the end of 2019 and the start of 2020 filled the skies with enough smoke to warm a portion of the atmosphere. Credit: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty

Atmospheric science

Smoke from Australian fires turned up the heat in the southern sky

The catastrophic wildfires of late 2019 and early 2020 triggered a lingering temperature rise in a section of Earth’s lower atmosphere.
Visible and infrared images of the device in fully discharged and charged states

A display screen in its uncharged (top left) and charged (top right) state in visible light. The screen reflects one range of infrared wavelengths when uncharged (bottom left) and another range when charged (bottom right). Credit: M. S. Ergoktas et al./Nature Photon.

Optics and photonics

One screen, three images — some invisible in ordinary light

A graphene-based device can display several images simultaneously using a range of wavelengths.
Woman harvesting teff, Ethiopia

A farmer in Ethiopia harvests teff, a cereal. Small farms tend to have more-diverse landscapes than do sprawling industrial operations. Credit: Andia/Universal Images Group/Getty

Environmental sciences

Small farms outdo big ones on biodiversity — and crop yields

Large-scale farms account for most of the global food supply, but smallholdings protect species and are just as profitable.
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