AUSTIN (KXAN) — New satellite data from NASA has found that the average global sea level rose by 0.11 inches from 2021 to 2022. That’s the equivalent of adding water from a million Olympic-size swimming pools to the ocean every day for a year.

Satellite Record of Sea Level Rise, courtesy of NASA

The 2022 increase was actually less than what scientists expected the annual rate to be due to the mild La Niña we experienced. Years with a La Niña usually lead to weather pattern shifts that bring more rainfall over land instead of the ocean. During years with an especially strong La Niña climate pattern, the rate of sea level rise can even temporarily decrease, according to NASA.

Sea Surface Height Change, courtesy of NASA

With 30 years of observational data to analyze, researchers have found that the rate of sea level rise is increasing. Since the first satellite mission that began in 1993, the global sea level has increased by 3.6 inches. Back in 1993, scientists predicted the sea level to rise at a rate of 0.08 inches per year. Their new prediction has jumped to a rate of 0.17 inches per year. With this increased rate of change, the projected rate of sea level rise will reach 0.26 inches per year by 2050.

What is the cause of global mean sea level rise?

1) Greenhouse gas emissions continue to lead to the warming of our atmosphere and ocean.

2) The added water into our oceans from the melting of ice sheets and glaciers that are located over land.

3) The expansion of seawater as it warms.

How do satellites gather sea level data?

Satellites carrying radar altimeter instruments continually send out pulses of radio waves that bounce off the surface of the ocean and reflect back toward the satellite. The instrument calculates the time it takes for the signal to return, while also tracking the precise location of the satellite in space. From this, scientists can derive the height of the sea surface directly underneath the satellite.

According to NASA, when altimetry data from all ocean basins is combined with more than a century of observations from coastal surface-based sources, together they dramatically expand and improve our understanding of how sea surface height is changing on a global scale.

How will this data be beneficial?

This updated information can help planners, builders and city leaders in areas like Miami, New Orleans and other cities across the coast plan properly for their future.