Terrawatch: why is sea level rising faster along China’s coast?

Sea level along the Chinese coast is rising faster than the global average, with some regions experiencing an increase of nearly 5mm a year, according to tide gauge and satellite data. A new study investigates what is causing the localised rise, and identifies which communities are most vulnerable.

Global heating is causing sea level rise around the world, with the average rate now 3.6mm a year (compared with 1.4mm a year for most of the 20th century). Oceans are interconnected and water sloshes between them, but the rate of sea level rise is not evenly distributed. Chinese seas are experiencing a significantly higher rate of sea level rise, with the average increase along the Chinese coast now at 3.9mm a year.

Writing in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, Dongxu Zhou, from the ministry of natural resources in Qingdao, and colleagues suggest possible causes for the higher rate of rise could include faster warming in Chinese seas, lower air pressure over the region, high volumes of freshwater runoff into Chinese seas, wind anomalies and alongshore currents. More than 40% of China’s population and 60% of its industry is situated in low-elevation coastal areas, making it one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to sea level rise.


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