Forgive the pun–but here’s a deep dive into a new report on how much sea level is predicted to rise as ice continues to melt in Greenland.
The report, which appeared Monday in the science journal Nature Climate Change, estimates that ice all but certain to melt on Greenland this century will–all by itself, NOT taking into account melting underway in Antarctica—raise sea levels by 10.7″ (27 cm)–but could lead to increases of as much as 30.7″ (78 cm).
The implications to the planet’s coastal populations are huge. We’re already seeing the impacts of sea level rise in increased storm damage and more frequent “sunny day” floods up and down the East Coast of the U.S.–flooding on the coast NOT related to storms, but to increasing ocean levels there.
Here’s how the Associate Press (AP) reports the finding.
More of the Greenland ice melt study appears here on the Inverse website.
Increases of 10.7″–twice what an international panel of scientists estimated in a recent United Nations IPCC report—may not sound like much. But the impacts are potentially huge. And sea level rise isn’t any more evenly distributed than are temps and precipitation on the planet. Some areas will see sea levels rise much more than the global average of 10.7″.
Also, critical to remember, this study looks at the contribution to sea level rise ONLY of Greenland ice. Antarctic ice melt is going on at the same time–and this isn’t factored into the report released Monday.
Rising seas mean salt water permeates fresh water supplies near the planet’s coasts–contaminating them with salt water.
For island nations dependent on these fresh water supplies, this can be a game changer.
The meltwater from Greenland glaciers emptying into the North Atlantic is believed to be behind a slowdown of the Gulf Stream which may now be traveling at the slowest rate in 1,000 years.
That slowdown has led to increasing sea level rises on the East Coast and sea water attempting to flow northward becomes damned. This has been increasing what’s known as “Sunny day” or “King” flooding is on the increase—–while, at the same time, increasing the warming of ocean waters there. NASA reports the fastest warming body of water in the world is the Gulf of Maine–and the slowing Gulf Stream has played a big role.
The 4″ sea level rise when Superstorm Sandy–actually a combination of multiple storms, including a hurricane–hit the Mid-Atlantic, storm surges and waves reached farther inland than would otherwise have occurred. The impact was devastating. Studies have shown $8-billion of the $63 billion in damage caused by Superstorm Sandy was the product of the storm’s waves and storm riding over more terrain because of higher sea levels. That’s $8-billion dollars of additional damage.
BACKGROUND ON EARTH’S WATER
Water sets this planet apart from others. 71% of Earth surface is covered with water. But 97.3% of that water is salty–a mere 3% of the water on Earth if “fresh” water—-and of that 3%, 70% of Earth’s fresh water is tied up in ice. Of that, 70% of the fresh water resides in Greenland and Antarctic ice.
So the fact that ice is melting at an increasing rate is disturbing.