Global warming may be sinking the ocean floor, study reports
A new study shows that melting glaciers may be pushing down and altering the ocean floor.

Joseph Scalise | Apr 19, 2018

While scientists have spent decades looking at how climate change impacts the oceans, they have not properly accounted for how such shifts affect the ocean floor, according to new research published in Geophysical Research Letters.

This discovery comes from researchers atthe Delft University of Technology, whofound that increasing ocean mass caused by melting ice sheets pushes down on the sinking ocean floor. That then deforms the seabeds and hides how much the oceans are actually swelling.

"The Earth itself is not a rigid sphere, it's a deforming ball," said lead author Thomas Frederikse, a geoscientist from the Delft University of Technology, according toEarther. "With climate change, we do not only change temperature."

The team discovered that changes to the bottom of the ocean hide its true volume -- known as the barystatic sea level rise -- from satellite observations.That is because such readings only show geocentric sea level rise, as seen from the surface side. As a result, there is a good chance that past measurements of ocean volume have been greatly underestimated.

To calculate how much the seabed has deformed under extra meltwater, researchers analyzed various estimates of mass loss from glaciers, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and land water storage. That showed the increasing ocean volume pushed the seabed down by roughly 0.005 inches per year from 1993 to 2014. In addition, some regions experienced shifts up to 0.04 inches per year, while others went down 0.016 inches per year

That total shift shows past satellite data may have underestimated barystatic sea level rise by as much as 8 percent. Such an error is significant, and researchers hope it will be added into future data calculations.

"To increase the accuracy of sea-level estimates, the effect of ocean-bottom deformation should be taken into account, either based on modeled estimates of ocean mass change, as was done in this study, or using more direct observations," the team wrote in their research, according toScience Alert.

Leave a comment or visit us on Twitter at hashtag @crunchscinews and on Facebook.