Scientists pinpoint the exact year sea levels began to rise due to booming industry

Sea levels began to reach modern rates of rising in 1863 (Getty)
Sea levels began to reach modern rates of rising in 1863 (Getty)

Scientists have pinpointed the year when modern rates of sea level rise began to emerge.

Analysis of a global database of sea level records over the last 2,000 years found that 1863 marked the turning point.

By examining worldwide records, researchers found that – globally – the onset of modern rates of sea level rise occurred in line with the Industrial Revolution.

This emergence of sea level rise coincided with both evidence of early ocean warming and of melting glaciers.

But sea level rises continued to accelerate, with the period from 1940 to 2000 seeing the fastest rates.

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The study did not analyse the years after 2000.

At individual sites in the US, modern rates emerged earliest in the mid-Atlantic region in the mid-to-late 19th century, and later in Canada and Europe, emerging by the mid-20th century.

Jennifer S Walker, lead author of the study and postdoctoral associate in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick in New Jersey, said: "We can be virtually certain the global rate of sea level rise from 1940 to 2000 was faster than all previous 60-year intervals over the last 2,000 years.

"Having a thorough understanding of site-specific sea level changes over long timescales is imperative for regional and local planning and response to future sea level rise."

She added: "The fact that modern rates emerge at all of our study sites by the mid-20th century demonstrates the significant influence global sea level rise has had on our planet in the last century.

"Further analysis of the spatial variability in the time of emergence at different locations will continue to improve society's understanding of how regional and local processes impact rates of sea-level rise."

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Research published in December suggested that the Thwaites glacier in Antarctica may be becoming unstable and could collapse within 10 years, causing a huge sea level rise.

On its own, the collapse could raise sea levels by 65cm. but the knock-on effects could be catastrophic, a University of Reading researcher warned.

The Thwaites glacier is often described as ‘the doomsday glacier’, due to the catastrophic effects if it collapsed.

Ella Gilbert, postdoctoral research associate in climate science at Reading, said in an essay for The Conversation: "Were it to empty into the ocean, it could trigger a regional chain reaction and drag other nearby glaciers in with it, which would mean several meters of sea level rise.

"That's because the glaciers in West Antarctica are thought to be vulnerable to a mechanism called Marine Ice Cliff Instability or MICI, where retreating ice exposes increasingly tall, unstable ice cliffs that collapse into the ocean.

"A sea level rise of several meters would inundate many of the world's major cities – including Shanghai, New York, Miami, Tokyo, and Mumbai.

"It would also cover huge swathes of land in coastal regions and largely swallow up low-lying island nations like Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Maldives."

Watch: Scientists embark on two-month mission to explore 'doomsday' glacier