Sea level rise threat from West Antarctic ice sheet may be lower than previously believed

A new paper in Science suggests that the potential contribution to sea level rise from a collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet has been “greatly overestimated.”

The paper suggests that should the ice sheet collapse, global sea levels will rise will only 3.3 metres, not the five or six previously thought.

The Atlantic and Pacific seaboards of the US, even in the case of a partial collapse, would experience the largest increases, threatening cities such as New York, Washington DC and San Francisco.

Whew, I feel safe now.  Interestingly, paper does not revise estimations of how probable such a collapse might be.  It does offer what appears to be a more complex and possibly realistic assessment of the mechanics of such a collapse, should it occur.

Instead of assuming a complete disintegration of the whole WAIS, Bamber and colleagues used models, based on glaciological theory, to simulate how the massive ice sheet would respond if the floating ice shelves fringing the continent broke free. Vast ice shelves currently block the WAIS from spilling into the Weddell and Ross Seas, limiting total ice loss to the ocean.

The full press release can be found here.


2 Responses to Sea level rise threat from West Antarctic ice sheet may be lower than previously believed

  1. climatesight says:

    The first time in a while that I’ve seen a revision to the estimates that wasn’t on the side of “It’s going to be worse than we thought” 🙂

    Have you seen my blog? It has to do with climate change in the context of bigger ideas such as credibility, risk management, and responsible journalism.

    You can probably just click on my name and it’ll take you there.


  2. hfpblog says:

    Hi Kate,

    Thanks for the comment. It’s not exactly good news is it, but at least not “as bad news” as we’re used to hearing.

    Very nice blog. I feel that it is essential that we focus on issues of science-policy dialogue, risk management, and social mobilisation in the coming decade if we are to really be able to respond effectively to climate change.

    What do you think the best ways to do this might be?

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