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Oceanographer Tal Ezer Discusses Research on Sea Level Rise for ‘The Academic Minute’

Tal EzerTal Ezer

Old Dominion University faculty member Tal Ezer was featured recently on the nationally syndicated educational radio program "The Academic Minute," speaking about his research on the trend of uneven sea level rise along the East Coast of the United States.

Ezer, a professor of ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences with ODU's Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography, examined why one section of the Atlantic coast is more vulnerable to sea level rise than others.

In his audio essay, which was broadcast July 5 WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and the national higher education website Inside Higher Ed, Ezer explained why weather events such as Superstorm Sandy can result in more severe flooding because of the accelerated sea level rise between North Carolina and New England.

"Global sea level rise has been measured for more than 100 years and the data show that sea level is not rising evenly," Ezer said. "The mid-Atlantic coast of the United States is one of those regions where sea level rise is much faster than normal and rates are increasing, making the region a 'hot spot of accelerated sea level rise.' But why is this happening?"

Researchers have speculated that a diminished flow of the Gulf Stream might be partly to blame. Data analysis by a team of oceanographers led by Ezer has given that hypothesis scientific support.

Based on computer climate models, scientists have hypothesized for some time that a warming climate in the Arctic will slow the Atlantic Ocean circulation and reduce the Gulf Stream transport. Ezer's study analyzed data that suggest that slowing of the Gulf Stream may have started already, and the accelerated sea level rise that has been measured in the area over the last few years is related to the changing Gulf Stream.

The research, which relies on a new data analysis method developed by Ezer and former ODU student William Bryce Corlett, was published in Geophysical Research Letters in October 2012.

The team's findings also were published in January by the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, and have been reported by the websites of numerous media that cover climate and weather, such as Climate Central, Discover magazine and The Weather Channel.

Hear Ezer's "Academic Minute" piece here: http://www.insidehighered.com/audio/2013/07/05/uneven-sea-level-rise. To read a transcript, see: http://www.wamc.org/post/dr-tal-ezer-old-dominion-university-uneven-sea-level-rise.

"The Academic Minute" features professors from top universities around the world delving into topics from the serious to the lighthearted, keeping listeners abreast of what's new and exciting in academia.

The program features a different professor every day. Each segment is introduced by Lynn Pasquerella, the president of Mount Holyoke College.