Sea level increased by 1 million olympic-size swimming pools in 1 year

That's 0.11 inches. Over 30 years, sea level increased by 3.6 inches.
Kavita Verma
Sea level rise over 30 years
Sea level rise over 30 years


From 2021 to 2022, a rise of 0.11 inches (0.27 centimeters) was observed in the average global sea level. This phenomenon could be considered as adding volumes of water enough to fill up a million Olympic-size swimming pools daily for a year, contributing to a multi-decade trend of sea-level rise. 

Since the observations of the sea surface height were initially started in 1993, along with the U.S.- French TOPEX/Poseidon mission, there has been an increase of 3.6 inches (9.1 centimeters) in the sea level, as per NASA's Sea Level Change science team.

How swiftly the sea level is rising or– the annual rate of sea-level rise– expected by researchers has also increased from 0.08 inches (.20 centimeters) per year in 1993 to 0.17 inches (0.44 centimeters) per year in 2022. Based on long-term satellite measurements, the projected rate of sea level rise is expected to reach 0.26 inches (0.66 centimeters) annually by 2050. 

“We have this clear view of recent sea level rise – and can better project how much and how quickly the oceans will continue to rise – because NASA and Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) have gathered decades of ocean observations. By combining that data with measurements from the rest of the NASA fleet, we can also understand why the ocean is rising,” said Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington.

“These fundamental climate observations help shape the operational services of many other federal and international agencies who are working with coastal communities to mitigate and respond to rising waters.”

The La Niña Phenomenon

Because of a mild La Niña, the 2022 increase was less than the annual expected rate. In the years with robust La Niña climate patterns, a temporary drop can be experienced in the global sea level as weather patterns shift, leading to less rainfall over the ocean and more over land. 

“With an increasing demand for accurate and timely climate information, NASA is committed to providing annual sea level observations and future projections in order to help vulnerable communities around the world better understand the risks they face in a new climate,” said Nadya Vinogradova Shiffer, a NASA program scientist for ocean science. “Timely updates are key to showing which climate trajectory we are on.”

A Long-Term Record

Thirty years ago, the measurements of sea surface height began with TOPEX/Poseidon and have continued through four succeeding missions led by NASA and partners, including the ESA (European Space Agency), French space agency CNES, and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The series’ latest mission, Sentinel-6/Jason-CS (Continuity of Service), consists of two satellites that can extend these measurements through 2030. The first of these two satellites, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, launched in 2020, with the second slated to orbit in 2025.

“The 30-year satellite record allows us to see through the shorter-term shifts that happen naturally in the ocean and helps us identify the trends that tell us where sea level is headed,” said JPL’s Ben Hamlington, a sea level researcher who leads NASA’s Sea Level Change science team.

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