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Estimated contributions to sea-level rise (1993-2003)

Hugo Ahlenius, UNEP/GRID-Arendal

This is a static visualization, referenced from a UNEP rapid response assessment report entitled In Dead Water, depicting the estimated contributions to sea-level rise from 1993 - 2003.

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Educators can use this graphic as an opportunity to discuss why the melting of floating sea ice does not contribute to sea level rise.
  • Suggest downloading the In Dead Water report http://www.grida.no/publications/rr/in-dead-water/ to complement the use of the this graphic. The chapter on Sea Level Rise, page 32 of the report, provides additional background on the graphic, as well as other graphics to supplement not only sea level change but other topics relating to a unit on climate change issues.
  • Be sure that the title and years are made clear to students.

About the Science

  • This visualization from the IPCC Fourth Assessment shows the estimated contributions of the two main sources for sea-level rise: 1) thermal expansion of ocean waters as they warm and 2) increase in the ocean mass principally from land-based sources of ice -- glaciers and ice caps and the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. The estimated contributions are compared to observed sea level rise 1993-2003.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Scientific strengths:
    - The graphic is clear to read
    - The two major contributions of sea level rise are explained
    - The quantitative values of sea level rise per year are helpful (the percentages sort of make things more confusing)
    - The wording is confusing throughout
    - I'm not sure how scientifically sound "For the 1993 to 2003 decade, when the best data are available" is unless explained WHY the data is better (obviously because we have more data points). It should probably be explained that the sea level rise data from 1955-1995 is not as reliable since there are a lot less data from that time period.
    - I think the rising concentrations for certain greenhouse gases could be given
    - Need to explain why the upper 750 m expands more than the rest of the ocean combined

About the Pedagogy

  • Resource provides a clear sense of the relative contributions to sea level rise and the comparison between estimated and observed sea level rise.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The graphics can be downloaded in a number of formats.
  • Visualization can be enlarged easily, downloaded, and clearly displays the data well enough for students to understand themselves.
Entered the Collection: April 2018 Last Reviewed: May 2016

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