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Now, climate prediction could be possible

NASA created animation shows sea level fingerprints, which response to Earth's gravitational fields

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: Jul 28 2016 2:00PM | Updated Date: Jul 28 2016 2:03PM

Now, climate prediction could be possible

An animation released by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory suggests the likely gravitational imprint of our changing climate on key features of the Earth in a way that's truly startling.


The animation uses measurements from NASA's squadron of GRACE satellites (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment), which detect changes in mass below them as they fly over the Earth, to calculate how the ocean changed from April 2002 until July 2011.


The change was recorded on the basing on corresponding changes in the mass of the continents. The resulting animation suggests the oceans gained mass overall, as seas rose, albeit with seasonal variations that result from water moving from the continents into the seas and back again.


But in key areas where glaciers have been melting - coastal Alaska, West Antarctica and, above all, Greenland - it suggests something very different happened. Here, the animation finds that the ocean fell, and in some places by as much as 50 millimeters over the short decadal span.


It's important to stress that the animation shows a mathematical inference based on gravitational measurements and a model that extends them to the oceans. 


It also doesn't take into account other factors that affect sea level, such as ocean temperatures, currents and salinity.