The ice caps are melting more quickly than we thought

Sea levels are rising by 3mm a year. The rise in sea levels is partly due to ice melt, which the latest calculations indicate that of the 3mm sea level annual rise 1.3mm, just under half, is contributed by ice melt.  The latest research also indicates that the ice melt is happening more quickly than predicted by the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change. The remaining rise in sea levels is probably mainly due to the expansion of sea water as the seas warm up.

First the ice melt: although some parts of the polar regions and some glaciers are increasing in ice density the vast majority of ice covered areas is decreasing. If you add the ice loss from the two Polar Regions together and project the increase water in the sea from these sources scientists say that seas would have risen by 15mm; if you add a projected similar loss of ice from glaciers and factor in thermal expansion sea levels would rise by 300mm by 2050 and more than a metre, by the end of the century – merely three or four generations hence.

This may not sound much but for many inhabited regions of the world these rises would be disastrous, creating loss of agricultural land, loss of life to starvation and flooding and in many countries would require a huge investment in infrastructure, just to maintain existing land free from the sea.

Rising sea levels across the world would not merely affect the land by flooding. The vast additional amounts of fresh water in the sea would affect climatic conditions created by sea currents and oscillations, cloud formation and humidity in the air. It is likely that the additional water in the air would cause more rainfall in certain regions but climatic changes in other regions.

There will be winners and losers in the changing climate I I think it is virtually impossible to predict where the gains and losses would fall. Our past experience tends to show that equatorial regions become less habitable but northern regions become more inhabitable.

It is too complex for even our best computers to calculate, and so for now, no one can give you robust advice on the best place for your great grandchildren to live, if they are to live lives without the stresses of drought, lack of food and extreme weather events.

 

One Response

  1. So the Gibraltar Dam Atlantropa project is not such a good idea then? I wonder how many mm that would raise the world sea levels or would it be that some other area of the world would be flooded.

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