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For over 20 years, satellite altimeters have measured the sea surface height of our ever-changing oceans.  This series of images shows the complicated patterns of rising and falling ocean levels across the globe from 1993 to 2015.

An animation showing “sea level fingerprints,” or patterns of rising and falling sea levels across the globe in response to changes in Earth’s gravitational and rotational fields. Major changes in water mass can cause localized bumps and dips in gravity, sometimes with counterintuitive effects.

In some parts of the world sea levels are increasing, while decreasing in others, and remain relatively flat in a few places; for more than 20 years, NASA has been tracking the global surface topography of the ocean to understand the important role it plays in our daily lives. 

Freshwater is found in lakes, rivers, soil, snow, groundwater and ice, and is one of the most essential of Earth's resources, for drinking water and agriculture. However, the distribution of freshwater around the planet is changing.