Antarctic ice may melt 20 years sooner than estimated — global sea levels likely to rise by an additional three inches by 2100

Antarctic ice may melt 20 years sooner than estimated — global sea levels likely to rise by an additional three inches by 2100
Representative imageCSIRO
  • Global sea levels may rise by 2.7 to 4.3 inches by 2100, according to a new study published in Climate Dynamics.
  • Scientists claim that accounting for internal climate variability displaces conventional model estimates that only use a mean temperature.
  • As a result, simulations may have underestimated the retreat of the Antarctic ice sheet by up to 20 years.
The fact that the polar ice sheets are melting as the planet gets warmers is no secret. However, scientists predict that the effects may be much worse than initially estimated.

In addition to the overall effects of climate change, ice cover will also be affected by internal climate variability, which conventional prediction models don’t consider.

Accounting for climate variability, the global sea level may rise by another 2.7 to 4.3 inches by 2100, according to a new study.

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FactorRise in sea level
With climate variability13.3 to 19.2 inches
Without climate variability10.6 to 14.9 inches


The study found that model simulation that did not include the effects of internal climate variability significantly delayed the ice sheet's retreat by up to 20 years and underestimated future sea-level rise.


It may not seem like much, but further increase in sea levels will only add to the destruction displayed by natural calamities.
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"Every bit adds on to the storm surge, which we expect to see during hurricanes and other severe weather events, and the results can be devastating," said Chris Forest, co-author of the paper published in Climate Dynamics.

What is climate variability?
Most research around climate change uses a mean temperature by averaging the results of climate models. The process smoothens the peaks caused by climate variability and reduces the average number of days above temperature thresholds. This creates a bias.

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"If we're just running with average conditions, we're not seeing these extremes (climate variability) happening on yearly or decadal timescales," explained Forest.

When one includes variability, the results accommodate for more warm days and more sunshine. On those days, the ice will melt further, with the temperatures being above the mean threshold.

The scientists also found that while atmospheric variations had a more considerable and more immediate impact on the ice sheet — ocean variability was also a significant factor.

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"It's important to better understand these processes contributing to the additional ice loss because the ice sheets are melting much faster than we expected," said Forest.

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