A new study suggests the Antarctic ice loss could double the current sea level rise estimates by the end of the century.
The new study made use of advanced computer models paired with a better understanding on how climate shifts led to changes in the global sea levels over the past thousands of years.
The models showed that we should be prepared for worse-than-expected sea level rise over the next decades. According to researchers, Antarctica could contribute to a sea level rise of 3.74 feet, or 1.1 meters by the end of the century, and more than 50 feet or, 15 meters by 2500.
The team suggests that curbing greenhouse gas emissions could prevent these worst-case-scenarios from happening. Yet, in a moderate emission scenario global sea levels could rise by as much as two feet, or 58 centimeters by 2100 and about 20 feet, or 6 meters by 2500.
Still, these contributions would be from Antarctica alone. There are other parts of the world that are major contributors such as Greenland and mountain glaciers. Greenland is melting at a much faster rate than Antarctica, and researchers estimate that when it will completely dry up, oceans would rise an extra 20 feet, or six meters.
The recent study is consistent with past research that showed that current sea level predictions may be too conservative. Two years ago, another team of researchers found that West Antarctica is melting irreversibly due to warmer sea waters that erode it from below.
One of the most exposed glaciers in the region is the Thwaites Glacier, which is now being scrutinized by an international team of researchers that seek data on the seabed beneath it and how warming waters will further affect it.
Robin Bell, co-author of the recent study and Columbia University researcher, likened the latest findings with a laser pointer that suggests where scientists should go. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that the latest estimates may have some limitations since the team does not yet know the exact topography of the seabed beneath the massive Thwaites Glacier.
The glacier could stand on a ‘smooth ramp’ or a ‘lumpy terrain’ which greatly affects the melting rate scenarios, Bell noted.
As a follow-up, researchers plan to compare current melting rates and climate shifts with scenarios in the distant past when natural climate shifts have caused similar polar melt and sea level rise.
The study was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
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