Sea levels rose faster in the past century than during the previous 2,800 years due to man-made global warming.
“We can say with 95 percent probability that the 20th-century rise was faster than any of the previous 27 centuries,” said Bob Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who led the research with nine colleagues from several U.S. and global universities.
The study was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
To reach their conclusions, the scientists compiled a database of geological sea-level indicators from marshes, coral atolls and archaeological sites around the world that spanned the last 3,000 years.
Global sea levels stayed fairly steady for about 3,000 years. Then, with the Industrial Revolution, global sea levels began to rise.
Seas rose about 5.5 inches from 1900 to 2000, for a rate of 1.4 millimeters per year. The current rate, according to NASA, is 3.4 millimeters per year, suggesting that sea level rise is still accelerating.
The study is the first to use so many regional sea level rise reconstructions, along with modern tide gauge data, plus other techniques, to identify the human fingerprint.
“There have been previous studies of former sea levels, but we were the first group to produce continuous global record of former sea levels,” said study co-author Ben Horton.