PerspectiveOcean Science

Ocean Freshening, Sea Level Rising

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Science  27 Jun 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5628, pp. 2041-2043
DOI: 10.1126/science.1085534

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Global sea levels have been rising over the past century. It remains hotly debated, however, how fast this rise has been and which of the two causes--expansion of ocean waters due to warming, or freshwater input from the continents-has dominated. In his Perspective, Munk argues that a recent survey of global ocean salinity may point to a dominant contribution from freshwater input. He cautions, however, that uncertainties in sea ice melting rates and possible biases in tide gage data do not yet allow a definitive answer. Even with global satellite coverage, several decades of data will be required for good estimates of the role of global warming in sea level rise.