Study Spells DOOM For Coastal Megacities

PC: Bruno Camargo via

PC: Bruno Camargo via

In a new study published in Nature, sea levels are predicted to rise faster than previously thought. While we are measuring rising levels in millimeters per year now, that rise could accelerate into centimeters and the total increase could be as much as 6ft by 2100.

The authors of the study, University of Massachusetts professor Robert M. DeConto and Pennsylvania State professor David Pollard, used a model coupling ice sheet and climate dynamics to study Antarctica’s contribution to past and future sea levels.

If the continent’s ice sheet melts, sea levels will rise more than 15 meters, or 50 feet, by 2500.

Another study, done recently by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, also concluded that melting ice in the Antarctic poses a serious problem.

With current level of greenhouse gas emissions, sea levels could rise by 3 feet by the end of the century, solely from melting ice in Antarctica. Combine that with the glaciers that are already crumbling in Greenland and other regions, that number spikes to 5 or 6 feet, according to the researchers.

The melting could occur as soon as 2050, Pollard told ABC News.

Major coastal cities like New York, Boston, Miami, New Orleans, London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Manila, Dhaka and Sydney could be wiped out by encroaching water.

This projection “nearly doubles” prior estimates of sea-level rise, which had relied on a “minimal contribution from Antarctica,” said Rob DeConto.

“Under the high-emissions scenario, the 22nd century would be the century of hell,” said Ben Strauss, director of the program on sea-level rise at Climate Central, an independent organization of scientists based in New Jersey. “There would really be an unthinkable level of sea rise. It would erase many major cities and some nations from the map. That century would become the century of exodus from the coast.”

“North America is kind of a bull’s eye for impacts of sea level rise if it’s the west Antarctic part of Antarctica that loses the ice first,” DeConto said. “That’s the place that we’re worried about losing ice first.”
But there is still time to start curtailing greenhouse gas emissions. “That’s the good news in this story,” Deconto said. “This study is suggesting the worst-case scenario might be worse than we were thinking a few years ago, but it still highlights that policy is going to play a really big role in which future path we go down in terms of sea level rise. The horse isn’t completely out of the barn yet.”

S.G. Basu is an aspiring potentate of a galaxy or two. She plots and plans with wondrous machines, cybernetic robots, time travelers and telekinetic adventurers, some of whom escape into the pages of her books. Once upon a previous life on planet Earth, S.G. Basu trained to be an engineer, and her interest in science and her love of engineering shows up time and again in her books.

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Posted in environment news, science news

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