Will a Melting Glacier Affect Your City? This NASA Tool Will Help You Find Out

Fagjun | Published 2017-11-30 14:13

Because the world’s seas and oceans don’t actually rise equally, rising water levels will have different impacts on different locations around the globe.

Which melting glacier is impacting the sea levels around the place where you live?



Here’s one sure thing we know about climate change: it has led to ice loss from our massive glaciers. Rising temperatures have led to melting glaciers and, consequently, to expanding oceans and rising sea levels. However, sea levels won’t rise evenly across the globe. Though many places are set to be affected by rising sea levels, each location will have different experiences. This is because the location of the melting glaciers matters in determining how rising sea levels will affect particular cities.


Researchers have found that, for example, the ice melt in Greenland is set to heavily influence sea levels in New York City. The Antarctic Peninsula’s melting glaciers, meanwhile, may eventually affect Sydney. Of course, the question now is why it is that our oceans don’t rise evenly.

Uneven Changes

Sea levels don't rise evenly.



One thing that scientists would like us to remember is that the world’s oceans aren’t like a macro version of a bathtub. In a bathtub, turning on the faucet at one end will lead to an even level of water all across the tub, so long as the water is undisturbed. However, our seas and oceans don’t work like a bathtub, and melting glaciers don’t work like faucets. There are several different factors that affect how sea levels rise across the globe.


Gravity is an important player here, and it’s what keeps meltwater from glaciers from spreading across the world’s oceans in an even manner. Objects with a large mass tend to attract other objects with a large mass, which is why large glaciers attract the waters around them. As the glaciers melt, the attraction decreases, and the water begins to pull away. Thus, the sea level around the glaciers actually drop instead of rise. The water, meanwhile, flows away.


Of course, this isn’t the only that melting glaciers can affect sea levels. The meltwater from the glaciers can also affect ocean currents. Melting glaciers, meanwhile, can alter the topography at the bottom of the ocean as the heavy ice above melts away.

A Tool for Planning Around Rising Levels

A tool by NASA may be helpful in coastal planning.



So is your city among those affected by melting glaciers? NASA has compiled a list of 293 cities set to be affected by changes in sea levels. You can also look for yourself if your city is among these 293, or just to see how much sea levels around you will rise, by using a tool furnished by NASA. This tool may seem a little complicated to use at first, so make sure not to skip the tutorial. Once you select a port city, the tool will show you how much the melting glaciers have changed the nearby sea level. Clicking on the different port cities marked on the map will also illustrate how the sea level changed at different rates in different locales.


NASA developed this tool so coastal planners can prepare for the rise sea levels. Eric Larour, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says that planners can use the tool to figure out how the decrease or increase in a glacier or ice sheet can affect nearby areas.

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