NASA Satellite View of Antarctica (the Knox, Budd Law Dome, and Sabrina Coasts), 2011.
Photo: © NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

Antarctica’s role in sea-level rise is greater than expected

The calculations of Antarctica’s projected contribution to sea-level rise in this century are, at the top-of-the range, far higher than the projections made by the World Climate Council.

Ice loss in the Antarctic could add up to 37 centimetres to global sea-level rise in the present century was the finding obtained by an international team of scientists and published 2014 in Earth System Dynamics.

The scientists have analysed how rising average global temperatures lead to warming of the ocean around Antarctica, influencing the melting of the Antarctic ice shelf. Antarctica has contributed less than 10 per cent to global sea-level rising up to now, a relatively low figure compared to the thermal expansion from warming oceans and melting glaciers. However, it is anticipated that Greenland and particularly the Antarctic ice sheet with its enormous volume of ice will become the largest factor influencing the future long-term rise in sea level. The West Antarctic marine ice sheet alone has the potential to raise sea level by several meters over the coming centuries. 

The calculations of Antarctica’s projected contribution to sea-level rise in this century exceed at the top end of the range the latest projections by the World Climate Council. Even in a scenario where ambitious climate-policy measures are implemented in line with the 2-degree goal, Antarctica’s contribution to global sea-level rise ranges from 0 to 23 centimetres.

More information:

Levermann, A., Winkelmann, R., Nowicki, S, Fastook, J.L., Frieler, K., Greve, R., Hellmer, H.H., Martin, M.A., Meinshausen, M., Mengel, M., Payne, A.J., Pollard, D., Sato, T., Timmermann, R., Wang, W.L., Bindschadler, R.A. (2014): Projecting Antarctic ice discharge using response functions from SeaRISE icesheet models. Earth System Dynamics, 5, 271293 [DOI: 10.5194/esd52712014]