Science News

The Ice Sheets Are Melting Faster Than Ever, Raising Sea Levels Even More

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Ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting at a fast space, speeding up the already quick rate of sea level increases, according to new satellite research.

At the rate the waters are rising, the world’s oceans will be at least two feet higher on average by the end of this century, compared to today, researchers say. Sea level rise is a result of climate change, as the oceans get warmer and glaciers and ice sheets melt, Fox News reports.

The research used 25 years of satellite data to show that the pace of melting has gotten faster, primarily from the melting of huge ice sheets. The data confirms scientists’ computer simulations and reflects predictions from the United Nations, which releases climate change reports regularly.

Steve Nerem, lead author from the University of Colorado, says, “It’s a big deal.” The projected sea level rise is only a conservative estimate; the levels could go higher. Even small changes in sea levels can cause massive flooding and erosion, scientists point out.

Katy Serafin, Oregon State University coastal flooding expert, said,

Any flooding concerns that coastal communities have for 2100 may occur over the next few decades.

Of the three inches the sea level has risen in the past 25 years, around 55% was due to warmer water expanding. The rest came from melting ice. And the process has moved up its speed, and over three-fourths of this acceleration since 1993 is caused by ice sheets melting in Greenland and Antarctica.

Anny Cazenave, director of Earth science at the International Space Science Institute in France, says that sea level rise is a more accurate gauge of climate change in action.

A two-feet increase in sea level “would have big effects on places like Miami and New Orleans,” Nerem said. He says these cities would survive under normal situations, but when a storm like 2012’s Sandy hits, the sea level rise coupled with storm surges can cause devastating damages.

Scientists at the American Geophysical Union meeting last year said that Antarctica may be melting faster than previously thought, though Greenland has caused three times more sea level rise, comparatively.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

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