Bad news, folks. Melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are on track to meet the United Nations’ “worst-case scenario” predictions, threatening millions of people around the world with severe flooding each year.
At the damning study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, rresearchers at the University of Leeds, UK, and the Danish Meteorological Institute found that melting Antarctica has raised global sea levels by 7.2 millimeters since the ice sheets were first monitored by satellite in the 1990s, while Greenland contributed another 10.6 millimeters. On top of these glacial giants, there are also many smaller glaciers around the world that are also melting and fueling sea level rise.
Altogether, the world’s oceans are rising by 4 millimeters each year as a result of melting ice sheets. If melting continues to increase at this rate, the ice sheets could raise sea levels an additional 17 centimeters by the end of the century, exposing an additional 16 million people to annual coastal flooding and destruction.
This, the researchers say, is almost exactly the “worst case scenario” put forward by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“If ice sheet losses continue to follow our worst-case climate warming scenarios, we should expect an additional 17 centimeters of sea level rise from the ice sheets alone. This is enough to double the frequency of storm flooding in many of the largest in the world. coastal cities,” said Anna Hogg, study co-author and climate researcher at the Leeds School of Earth and Environment, in a declaration.
There are a number of reasons why the projections appear to have underestimated sea level rise, according to the researchers. On the one hand, existing models do not account for clouds and cloud formation, which help to modulate surface melt. Likewise, many ignore short-term weather events, which are also likely to change in the face of more long-term climate change.
This has some big implications for how the world plans to tackle climate change and the effects it will have on our planet. The IPCC is an attempt to provide the world with scientific information about the risks of human-induced climate change and the way it will affect the natural world and the human world. If we’re already aligned with your worst-case scenarios of sea level rise, that means our guide to avoiding a full-blown climate crisis might need revision.
“While we anticipated that the ice sheets would lose increasing amounts of ice in response to warming oceans and the atmosphere, the rate at which they are melting has accelerated faster than we could have imagined,” explained Dr. climate study and researcher at the Center for Polar Observation and Modeling at the University of Leeds.
“The melt is overtaking the climate models we use to guide us, and we run the risk of not being prepared for the risks posed by sea level rise.”