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Terrifying NASA animation showcases global sea levels rising over the past 30 years

Published Jun 21st, 2023 8:45PM EDT
deep ocean with light coming in
Image: donfiore / Adobe

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NASA has released a terrifying animation that showcases just how much global sea levels have risen over the past 30 years. The visualization is captured perfectly by showcasing the rise in water levels as if you’re looking through a window on a boat, with the waves sloshing against it.

The animation starts with the water roughly halfway up the height of the window. By the time 30 years have passed, though, the water level has risen quite a bit. They pulled the data used to create the animation from the Integrated Multi-Mission Ocean Altimeter Data for Climate Research. NASA says it is accurate to the exact measurements captured by that mission. The level is driven by a 60-day floating average.

Global sea levels have risen by roughly eight centimeters over the past 30 years. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, when we’re talking about sea levels, every centimeter that the water rises puts communities along the shore at risk. This animation, while it might seem a little mundane to many, is actually very terrifying to think about, especially if you imagine you’re in a boat that’s steadily sinking deeper into the ocean.

The ongoing climate change crisis is believed to be at the heart of the rising sea levels, most prominently caused by the melting of ancient ice shelves that have remained frozen for billions of years. What’s even more terrifying about seeing the sea level rise in this animation, though, is thinking about how it might look if sea levels rise the projected 1.6 feet they are expected to if some of the ice shelves melt.

Three decades might also seem like a long time, almost a lifetime in fact, but that’s only roughly two-thirds the amount of time that companies like ExxonMobil have known just how dangerous burning fossil fuel is for our planet. As such, seeing the sea levels rise eight centimeters in that same amount of time really highlights the necessity of finding ways to slow down climate change, and NASA’s sea level animation is just another stark reminder of how we’re running out of time.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.