Sea Level Could Rise in South, Fall in North
Climate change is expected to cause sea levels to rise -- at least in some parts of the world. Elsewhere, the level of the ocean will actually fall. Scientists are trying to get a better picture of the complex phenomenon, which also depends on a host of natural factors.
When presented as a globe, the Earth looks as round and smooth as a billiard ball. To anyone standing on a beach, the ocean looks as flat as a pancake.
But perception is deceptive. "In reality, the water in the oceans wobbles all over the place," says oceanographer Detlef Stammer. He isn't talking about waves, but large-scale bulges and bumps in the sea level.
Stammer, who is the director of the Center for Marine and Climate Research at the University of Hamburg, is familiar with the incorrect notions that lay people have, which is why he likes to present them with two numbers to shatter their illusions. "In the Indian Ocean, the sea level is about 100 meters (330 feet) below the average, while the waters around Iceland are 60 meters above the average."
The incorrect belief that ocean water is evenly distributed lives on in the debate over climate change, says Stammer. The rising sea level is widely viewed as the most threatening consequence of global warming.