Magazine article Science News

Predictions Drop for Future Sea-Level Rise

Magazine article Science News

Predictions Drop for Future Sea-Level Rise

Article excerpt

Predictions drop for future sea-level rise

Global sea levels are rising and will continue to rise in the future, causing serious problems for low-lying areas. But the ocean will not rise as quickly as predicted, and the West Antarctic ice sheet will not melt in the next century, climate experts said last week at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

"We have revised rather drastically our best estimates of how much global sea level will rise due to greenhouse warming," says Mark F. Meier of the University of Colorado at Boulder, who in 1985 chaired a National Research Council committee investigating changes in sea level. He adds, however, that many uncertainties plague these latest predictions.

Scientists believe the expected global warming will partially melt glaciers as well as cause the oceans to expand. According to Meier, the information available in 1985 led his committee to predict that sea levels would rise about 1 meter with a 3[degrees]C increase in global average temperature. At the time, scientists estimated the meter rise would occur by the year 2100, when carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are expected to reach double their 1950 value. The committee also reported the slim possibility that part of the West Antarctic ice sheet could slide into the sea within that time frame, causing a catastrophic rise in sea levels in the next century.

On the basis of information presented last week, Meier says the best predictions now call for a rise of only one-third meter with a doubling of 1950 carbon dioxide levels. This rise should occur before 2100, perhaps by midcentury, he says, because growing levels of other greenhouse gases are also heating the atmosphere.

Recent research on the West Antarctic ice sheet indicates this structure will not disintegrate within the next century, Meier adds. …

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