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Probable unstable Pine Island Glacier retreat and sea level rise (new study)

Prof. Tony Payne (Bristol University) contributing author on recent study (Favier et al., 2014. Nature Climate Change doi:10.1038/nclimate2094) showing that Pine Island Glacier’s grounding line is probably engaged in an unstable 40 km retreat. Using ‘state-of-the-art’ ice-sheet modelling, the team demonstrated that the dynamic contribution to sea level rise will remain at a significantly higher level compared with conditions prior to the retreat (equivalent to 3.5–10 mm eustatic sea-level rise over the 20 years).


iGlass paper: A geological perspective on potential future sea-level rise

Sea-level versus carbon dioxide concentrations

A new paper by iGlass members suggest modern sea level changes is rapid by past interglacial standards (Rohling et al., 2013 Scientific Reports).

“During ice-age cycles, continental ice volume kept pace with slow, multi-millennial scale, changes in climate forcing. Today, rapid greenhouse gas (GHG) increases have outpaced ice-volume responses, likely committing us to > 9 m of long-term sea-level rise (SLR). We portray a context of naturally precedented SLR from geological evidence, for comparison with historical observations and future projections. This context supports SLR of up to 0.9 (1.8) m by 2100 and 2.7 (5.0) m by 2200, relative to 2000, at 68% (95%) probability.”

The research led by Prof. Eelco Rohling and Dr Ivan Haigh suggests that comparison of present changes in sea level to the natural context outlined in this paper, may be used to identify if and when sea-level response becomes ‘special’ (i.e., unprecedented during geological interglacials).

Professor Rohling concludes: “For the first time, we can see that the modern sea-level rise is quite fast by natural standards. Based on our natural background pattern, only about half the observed sea-level rise would be expected. Although fast, the observed rise still is (just) within the ‘natural range’. While we are within this range, our current understanding of ice-mass loss is adequate. Continued monitoring of future sea-level rise will show if and when it goes outside the natural range. If that happens, then this means that our current understanding falls short, potentially with severe consequences.”

Australia’s 9 News interview with Prof. Eelco Rohling:

UK Wave 102 radio interview with Dr Ivan Haigh:


IPCC 5th Assessment WG1 summary

A summary for policy makers was released today. Itcover includes is a clear statement that humans have influenced climate system.

“As the ocean warms, and glaciers and ice sheets reduce, global mean sea level will continue to rise, but at a faster rate than we have experienced over the past 40 years,” said Co-Chair Qin Dahe.

From the summary of thesea level chapter: “There is very high confidence that maximum global mean sea level during the last interglacial period  129,000 to 116,000 years ago) was, for several thousand years, at least 5 m higher than present and high confidence that it did not exceed 10 m above present. During the last interglacial period, the Greenland ice sheet very likely contributed between 1.4 and 4.3 m to the higher global mean sea level, implying with medium confidence an additional contribution from the Antarctic ice sheet. This change in sea level occurred in the context of different orbital forcing and with high-latitude surface temperature, averaged over several thousand years, at least 2°C warmer than present (high confidence).” (Approved summary for policy makers WGI AR5-SPM_Approved27Sep2013)

Further information: link to the IPCC

January 2019
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