Polar ice sheets could add 30cm to sea level rise

Groundbreaking research is suggesting that the melting of the Antarctic Ice Sheet could add up to 30cm of sea level rise between 2015 and 2100. Even partial melting of the ice due to climate change will significantly contribute to the rise.  

Over 99 per cent of terrestrial ice is bound up in the ice sheets covering Antarctic and Greenland. Even partial melting of this ice due to climate change will significantly contribute to sea level rise.

For the first time ever, glaciologists, oceanographers, and climatologists from 13 countries have teamed up to make new projections. Their modelling efforts show that the Antarctic Ice Sheet may account for up to 30 cm of sea level rise between 2015 and 2100, explains a statement.

However, some scenarios alternatively suggest that the volume added to the ice sheet by snowfall will surpass what is lost through melting, partially offsetting the rise by 7.8 cm at best.

This wide range in estimates mainly reflects incomplete knowledge of melting that occurs on the bottom of ice shelves. But these floating glacial fringes, which can cover an area half the size of France, pen in the rest of the ice sheet. Were they to be lost, the new projections indicate that the ocean would rise several metres over 500 years.

Over the same 2015-2100 period, the Greenland Ice Sheet would contribute an additional 1.5 to 14 cm, depending on the level of our greenhouse gas emissions. To refine their predictions, scientists are turning to a new generation of climate models that directly integrate data on the cryosphere, in addition to atmospheric, oceanic, and biogeochemical inputs.

Image credit: Eric Post, UC Davis

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