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Sea Levels Rise 1.8 Meters in Worst-Case-Scenario

Oct 14, 2014 01:48 PM EDT
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With the world getting warmer and ice sheets melting, rising sea levels are a major concern among scientists. Now, new research claims that in the worst-case-scenario, we can expect sea levels to rise 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) at most.

Numerous studies have warned of the risk of rising sea levels and its subsequent consequences, but none, including the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report from 2013, could accurately put a cap on this phenomenon within this century. Now researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute and their colleagues have taken a closer look and calculated the risk for a worst-case scenario.

"We wanted to try to calculate an upper limit for the rise in sea level and the biggest question is the melting of the ice sheets and how quickly this will happen," Aslak Grinsted, one of the researchers, said in a statement. "The IPCC restricted their projections to only using results based on models of each process that contributes to sea level. But the greatest uncertainty in assessing the evolution of sea levels is that ice sheet models have only a limited ability to capture the key driving forces in the dynamics of the ice sheets in relation to climatic impact."

In this case, the study team worked out new calculations, examining two large ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica, as well as mountain glaciers. By combining IPCC numbers with current sea level predictions, including expected ice melt from Antarctica, the researchers landed on 1.8 meters as the calculated maximum during this century.

"We have created a picture of the probable limits for how much global sea levels will rise in this century. Our calculations show that the seas will likely rise around 80 cm. An increase of more than 180 cm has a likelihood of less than five percent. We find that a rise in sea levels of more than two meters is improbable," Grinsted explained.

What causes sea levels to rise is the melting of ice on land that then flows into the sea, as well as hot water expanding as the climate warms. Not to mention that we're pumping large amounts of groundwater for both drinking water and agricultural use that eventually makes its way into the sea.

With all this water being dumped into the sea, it's no wonder that the US East Coast can expect daily tidal floods by the year 2045, as a recent report indicated.

The researchers emphasize that their new findings apply to this century alone, and that in centuries to come the Earth should continue to brace for rising sea levels.

The research was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

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