Science

NASA Study Suggests Sea Levels Could Rise 15 Inches by 2100

A recent study by NASA revealed that by the year 2100, sea levels have a possibility of rising by 15 inches. This will become a reality if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the present rate.

To this study, over 60 ice, atmosphere, and ocean scientists from 36 international institutions contributed. This research suggests that the ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland alone can make this change. It is noteworthy that all of this only adds to the already occurring sea-level rise across the globe, caused by global warming.

Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets
Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets | Source – USGS

The results of this study align well with the suggestions put forward by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2019 Special Report on Oceans and the Cryosphere. Researchers concluded that in this century, Greenland would be responsible for 3.1 – 10 inches, and Antarctica would cause around 2.1-11 inches of global sea-level rise.

Results Of The Study

The journal The Cryosphere published the results of this study. The necessary data were taken from the Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project (ISMIP6). The Goddard Space Flight Center of NASA, located at Greenbelt, Maryland, directed this project. NASA is able to predict the effects of melting ice caps by observing the changing sea levels from space.

According to ice scientist Sophie Nowicki, the project leader, the amount of contribution of ice caps for the sea-level rise is highly uncertain. However, it all depends on the climatic changes that the Earth is currently experiencing.

Heiko Goelzer, the project leader of the Greenland ice cap research and a scientist at the Norwegian Research Centre in Norway, stated that the aim of ISMIP6 was to collectively understand the fate of ice sheets across the globe, by bringing together various ice, ocean, and atmospheric modeling groups.

Rise Of Sea Levels Depends On The Emission Of Greenhouse Gases

The rapid melting of the ice sheets in Greenland results from warming air temperatures and increasing ocean temperatures. This provides a major contribution to the global rise of sea levels. The quantity of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere will determine how much the ocean level rises.

Greenland's melting ice
Greenland’s melting ice | Source – Thongchai Thailand

Two vastly different cases set for the IPCC’s future climate were studied by the ISMIP6 team, in order to estimate the rise of ocean levels by 2100. In the first scenario, carbon dioxide emissions increase dramatically. In the other one, it decreases rapidly.

Ice Sheets In Greenland

Greenland's ice sheets
Source – National Geographic

The scientists concluded that these would account for a 3.5 inches rise in sea levels by the year 2100. However, with reduced emissions, ice sheets in Greenland would only account for a 1.3 inches rise in ocean levels. This estimation, however, does not include the results of prior studies between post-industrial times and now, which state that the Greenland ice sheet will cause a quarter-inch sea-level rise by 2100.

Ice Sheets In Antarctica

In the case of Antarctica’s ice sheets, researchers find it extremely difficult to estimate its future ice loss, due to several reasons. In the West, the bottom of large floating ice shelves gets eroded due to warm ocean currents. In the East, however, warmer air temperatures cause increased snowfall, causing ice sheets to gain mass.

Antarctica's ice sheets
Source – Science

Therefore, all possibilities depend on the way this ice sheet reacts to the climatic change. As a result of extreme fluctuations in the Antarctica ice sheet, sea levels could either decrease by 3.1 inches or increase up to 12 inches. According to the climate model projections, the most severe loss of ice will be experienced by the West Antarctica ice sheet. The ocean levels have a possibility of rising up to 7.1 inches by 2100, in the warmest climate conditions.

Here’s What Researchers Has To Say About The Rise Of Sea Levels

According to ice scientist Hélène Seroussi, the leader of the Antarctic ice sheet project, The Amundsen Sea region in West Antarctica and Wilkes Land in East Antarctica carry the highest possibility of losing massive amounts of ice. She stated that thanks to these experimental results, corrective measures can be taken to minimize the damage caused to the Earth.

In this series of studies, advanced climate technology such as climate modeling systems and satellite imagery were utilized. Overall, the study suggests that sea levels will rise up to 15 inches by 2100. The knowledge gained by this will equip scientists with the data required for the sixth IPCC report, which is set to be released in 2022.

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