Sustained greenhouse gas emissions could raise sea levels by nearly 40 centimeters this century, as ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland continue to melt. This is stated in a large new study, the results of which were published in the journal Nature Climate Change reports AFP.
The giant ice caps contain enough frozen water to lift the ocean 65 meters, and researchers are increasingly concerned that their rate of melting is in line with the UN’s worst-case sea-level rise scenarios.
Experts from more than three dozen research institutes have used ocean temperature and salinity data to create several computer models that simulate potential ice loss from glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica. They tracked two climate scenarios: one in which humankind continues to pollute the environment at current levels, and another in which carbon emissions plummet by the year 2100.
They found that under the high emissions scenario, the loss of ice in Antarctica would lead to a sea-level rise of 30 cm by the end of the century, and the melting of Greenland would add another 9cm.
Such an increase will have devastating consequences around the world, increasing the destructive power of storm surges and exposing coastal areas, home to hundreds of millions of people, to repeated and severe flooding.
Even in the lower emission scenario, the Greenland sheet will raise ocean levels by about 3 cm by 2100.
Until the early 21st century, the ice sheets in West Antarctica and Greenland generally accumulated as much mass as they lost. In other words, the runoff was offset by fresh snowfall. But over the past two decades, the increasing rate of global warming has upset that balance.
In a study published earlier this month in the journal Nature Climate Change, scientists predicted a maximum sea-level rise of 40 cm by 2100. The authors of the study, published Thursday in a special issue of the journal Cryosphere, said it highlights the role of emissions in sea level rise this century.