According to experts, Antarctic rocks melting could raise sea level much more than expected. This would cause an increase of up to 21 centimeters by 2100. If there isn’t a shift in environmental policies, there could be irreversible consequences from the melting ice sheets.
Researchers found that drastic actions to avoid a catastrophic rise in sea levels due to melting in the Antarctic that “could not be stopped by any human intervention” need to be taken before 2060.
Melting of Antarctic ice sheets could cause sea levels to rise 17-21 cm by 2100, if global warming continues at its current pace, according to an article published in Nature and written by researchers from Rutgers University and Massachusetts Amherst Universities.
The experts urge an alignment of environmental policies with the 2016 Paris Agreement.
The investigation consisted of various ice-sheet models, with modern satellite observations, paleoclimate data and a machine learning technique to explore the velocity of the ice melting under different global greenhouse gas emissions policies, proving that the conditions agreed on in the Paris Agreement would be the most practical and successful in slowing down the melting.
“These results demonstrate the possibility that unstoppable, catastrophic sea level rise from Antarctica will be triggered if Paris Agreement temperature targets are exceeded,” the study says.
Sea levels have been steadily rising for years now, as a result from climate change and global warming. One of the places that has been rapidly losing ice is Greenland; however, Antarctica holds over eight times more ice over the ocean level: which is about 190 feet of global average sea-level rise, according to the article.
The investigation points out that the way the ice sheets are formed plays an important role in the rising of sea levels: The sheet of ice slides into the ocean, where it starts to melt, but this process goes slowly thanks to a ring of ice platforms, which avoid the ice sheets from collapsing, acting as a dike.
As global warming gets worse, the ice platforms get thinner, therefore the water from the melting ice can weaken the platforms, and even disintegrate them. This will make the sheets flow faster into the ocean, where they will melt faster and so, increase the sea level.
Among the different models used in the investigation, the best results were in conditions where the temperature only rises 1,5 or 2 degrees celsius, which would still increase the sea level by 2100, but by six to eleven centimeters, rather than 17 to 21, as it’s expected to with the current environmental policies.
According to the article, in the long term if there isn’t an improvement in global warming, the Antarctic ice melt could even reach “globally catastrophic levels, of even ten meters or more” by 2300.
Javiera is from Santiago de Chile, she is studying journalism at Universidad de Chile, since 2017 and doing her internship at Chile Today.