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Nov 2 / Dave Schumaker

Volcano Responsible for Sea Level Rebound?

The current issue of New Scientist is reporting that researchers believe that Mount Pinatubo was responsible for an increasing rate of sea level rise that was observed in the mid to late 1990’s. The average sea level increase from 1950 to present is roughly 1.8 millimeters a year. After Mount Pinatubo erupted, sea level rates rose at nearly 3.2 millimeters a year!

John Church of the CSIRO in Australia has combined observations of the oceans’ heat content with climate simulations to calculate that ocean surface temperatures fell by up to 0.5 °C in the months after the eruption in 1991 (Nature, vol 438, p 74). Since cooling reduces the water’s volume, he calculates that Pinatubo should have taken 5 millimetres off sea levels worldwide during this period.

Since then, the oceans have been regaining heat, but this warming happens more slowly that it does in the atmosphere. Church calculates that the Pinatubo rebound explains half of the surge in sea level rise measured by satellites between 1993 and 2000.

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