Friday, December 18, 2009

Sea Levels Set to Rise More Than Expected Due to 'Deeply Surprising' Greenland Melt

Oh boy...

A new study by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program estimates that the sea will rise by 0.5 to 1.5 meters by 2100, threatening coastal cities and flooding island nations. This is double the predicted rise estimated by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change (IPCC) in 2007, which did not incorporate sea level rise due to the melting of Greenland and Antarctica's ice sheets.

Most surprisingly, the study found that discharge from Greenland had increased by 30 percent over the last decade: jumping from 330 billion giga tons in 1995 to 430 billion giga tons in 2005.

"We know that the Arctic has warmed enormously over the past 50 years and that the temperatures over Greenland have increased by more than twice the global average. Despite these observations, it is deeply surprising and worrying to see the pace of the changes in the Greenland Ice Sheet", lead author, Professor Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, University of Copenhagen said in a press release.

"Greenland’s Ice Sheet is the single largest body of freshwater ice in the northern hemisphere. It contains around 3 million km of ice and, if it were to melt completely, this would cause global sea level to rise by roughly 7 meter.

It sure would be interesting, in 2050, to look at how the costs of sea walls and adaptation steps stacked up in the 2010's - 2040's compared to the amount we'd need to invest now to slow the pollution causing warming. 

My sense is that if we don't take bold action now, warming is going to end up being a story similar to the way people talk about the beginning of World War II: "What if we HAD stopped Hitler in 1936?" (apologies for using the now hackneyed Hitler comparison, but I wanted to use it more appropriately than it's been used of late)

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