During the last few decades, the U.S. West Coast caught a break from the pace of sea level rise experienced by many coastal regions around the world, but a new study warns that changes are in the wind.
In fact, an ocean-wide “regime shift” in circulation patterns across the North Pacific may already be underway — reversing a pattern of natural variability that took hold during the mid-1970s. Oceanographers are concerned that the changes they are seeing may potentially “foreshadow” a rise in sea level from Seattle to San Diego that could reach or even surpass the global rate.
Since 1976, a climate cycle known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, has shown a predominant pattern of winds and currents that has kept the west coast of the United States relatively cool while keeping sea temperatures along eastern Asia especially warm.
A new satellite and tide-gauge analysis, about to be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans,
shows the opposite pattern is about to kick into place: cooler Pacific waters near Asia, and warmer waters off the US West Coast. According to researcher Peter Bromirski and colleagues at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, there are even “indications that this is what might be happening right now.”