Global sea levels fell in 2010 and 2011. Why?

The Guardian reports, 23rd August 2013, “Rain — in effect, evaporated ocean — fell in such colossal quantities during the Australian floods in 2010 and 2011 that the world’s sea levels actually dropped by as much as 7mm.

Wagga Wagga flood

An aerial view of flood waters around Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia, on 6 December 2010.
Photograph: Les Smith/pool/EPA

“Rainwater normally runs swiftly off continental mountain ranges, pours down rivers, collects in aquifers and lakes and then winds across floodplains into the sea. But Australia, as any Australian will proudly claim, is different. Rain that falls in the outback of the largest island — also the smallest continent — tends to dribble away into inland waterways and seemingly get lost, without ever making it to the coast, or to collect in shallow inland seas and stay there till it evaporates.

“It is a beautiful illustration of how complicated our climate system is”, says John Fasullo, of the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research. “The smallest continent in the world can affect sea level worldwide. Its influence is so strong that it can temporarily overcome the background trend of rising sea levels that we see with climate change.

“No other continent has this combination of atmospheric set-up and topography”, says Fasullo. “Only in Australia could the atmosphere carry such heavy tropical rains to such a large area, only to have those rains fail to make their way to the ocean.”

Source: The Guardian, 23rd August 2013. For the full text, see http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/23/australian-floods-global-sea-level

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