Irreversible Sea Level Rise to Continue for Thousands of Years

It’s too late! We’re all going to die!

So says the latest research to be published in the respected journal Environmental Research Letters.

OK. I might be jumping to a bit of a dramatic conclusion there. In fact, the study in question has shown that the levels of greenhouse gasses we have already pumped into the atmosphere have set us on an irreversible 1.1 metre sea level rise by the year 3000, and if we don’t cap the emissions as soon as possible, the sea will only continue to rise as the decades and millenia pass.

Maybe I wasn’t so far off after all.

sea level rise

“Ice sheets are very slow components in the climate system; they respond on time scales of thousands of years,” said co-author of the study Professor Philippe Huybrechts.

“Together with the long life-time of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, this inertia is the real poison on the climate system: anything we do now that changes the forcing in the climate system will necessarily have long consequences for the ice sheets and sea level.”

The researchers found in all of their scenarios that the Greenland ice sheet was responsible for more than half of the sea level rise seen, with thermal expansion of the oceans as the second highest contributor, and the glaciers and ice making up only a small percentage.

They believe that they are the first to have conducted a study that included glaciers, ice caps, the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets, and thermal expansion of the oceans in a single projection of sea level rise.

An impressive feat, considering the difficulty of accounting for 200,000 individual glaciers and the sheer size of the polar ice sheets, both of which generally require massive amounts of computational power. The researchers used the modelling system called LOVECLIM.

“Ultimately the current polar ice sheets store about 65 metres of equivalent sea level and if climatic warming will be severe and long-lasting all ice will eventually melt,” Professor Huybrechts continued.

“Mankind should limit the concentration of greenhouse gases at the lowest possible level as soon as possible. The only realistic option is a drastic reduction of the emissions. The lower the ultimate warming will be, the less severe the ultimate consequences will be.”

Source: Institute of Physics
Image Source: Christine Zenino

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