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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Researcher to Lead NASA Sea Level Change Team

By Jon Cawley

NASA announced Sept 26 that Old Dominion University researcher Ben Hamlington will serve as the agency's Sea Level Change Team (SLCT) for the next three years.

The new SLCT consists of eight members selected from 20 research proposals. Hamlington's research proposal, "Identifying, Quantifying and Projecting Decadal Sea Level Change" was chosen from five proposals to lead the team.

According to NASA, the program is intended to integrate research to improve the accuracy of sea level rise estimates and communicate those results in a simplified manner to the scientific community and general public.

It focuses on objectives that include:

  • Characterizing current changes in sea level rise;
  • Characterizing underlying processes and improving predictions of regional variations in sea levels;
  • Improving knowledge of ice mass change to improve estimates of current and future sea level rise;
  • Integrating results into better forecasts of sea level rise.

According to NASA's team announcement, the results of these investigations are being integrated as new tools, new datasets, and science highlights into the NASA Web Portal for Sea Level Change (launched December 2015). This portal has been established particularly to facilitate interdisciplinary research by providing tools, data, and new science that contributes to sea level research.

"Over the last three years, the N-SLCT has made progress on a number of important problems, including development of a better understanding of ice sheet dynamics, better estimates of vertical crustal motion that can exacerbate sea level rise, and better tools for computing the regional impacts of sea level change due to ice mass loss," said N-SLCT's 2014-2017 Team Leader Steve Nerem of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research. "The team also developed new estimates of the acceleration of sea level change and a more detailed understanding of how nuisance flooding is made worse by sea level rise, and also identified the most important problems to tackle in the next three years."

Hamlington said the team led by Nerem laid a foundation for new members to pursue.

"Many of the issues associated with projecting regional sea level change are better understood and the tools developed will play a big role in our push towards creating products that can be useful for coastal planning efforts," he said,in the NASA release. "Going forward, we want our work to be informed by the needs of decision-makers. Our goal by the end of the next three years is to have an improved set of regional sea level projections across a range of temporal and spatial scales that can be shared on the NASA Web portal. We are well positioned to do exactly that with the hard work of the previous team and the great group of scientists on the new team."

Hamlington, who has been at Old Dominion since 2014, is an assistant professor of ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences. He uses satellite data to analyze changes in ocean levels and the rate of land subsidence.

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