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Global warming: How many meters will the ocean rise if Greenland melts?

Due to global warming, Greenland ice could contribute to a sea level rise of several meters over the next few centuries. However, efforts to mitigate global warming could greatly reduce this risk if greenhouse gas emissions are limited. 

Greenland’s current rate of ice melt is unprecedented.

One of the most serious effects of climate change is rising sea levels, largely linked to the melting of glaciers and ice caps . This rise in sea level will necessarily lead to the submersion of many inhabited lands , and therefore to an explosion in the number of climate refugees.

The University of Cambridge has simulated the evolution of Greenland ice up to the year 3000 to understand the impact of 21st century climate change on subsequent centuries. University professors used the international model ISMIP6 ( Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project for the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 ) to study several scenarios: twelve configurations in which warming continues uninterrupted until the year 3000 of the same way it currently evolves until 2100, and two other hypotheses in which the emissions greenhouse gas emissions are decreasing until 3000.

The researchers used climate projections available until 2100, given the current trend in greenhouse gas emissions. Over the past 20 years, the intensity of ice melting has occurred six times faster than the rate estimated before the industrial revolution.  

Figure 1a. The top maps show daily melt extent for the Greenland Ice Sheet for August 14, 15, and 16, 2021. The lower left map shows cumulative melt days for 2021 through Aug 16. The lower right graph shows daily melt extent during mid-summer for all years in the satellite record with a maximum melt extent greater than 800,000 square kilometers (309,000 square miles). The graph areas depict the daily melt area for the 1981 to 2010 average, the interquartile range, and the interdecile range. All melt events observed by the NSIDC satellite record are circled in cyan; the rain (red circle) and melt event of 2021 is the only event of this type in the 43-year record. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center/T. Mote, University of Georgia

The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions has a major impact

Through these different scenarios, the study , published in the Journal of Glaciology , concluded that the reduction of greenhouse gases had considerable consequences on the evolution of the ice in Greenland, and therefore on the rise in the level of the sea. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at the same rate, maintaining the current trend of global warming, sea levels could rise by 0.71 to 3.54 meters due to the volume of melted ice. In the case of scenarios reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the rise in sea level due to this volume of water would be between 0.16 and 0.4 metres.

In other words, if nothing is done to mitigate the current global warming, the University predicts a rise in sea level of several meters by the year 3000, knowing that certain areas, such as the coasts of south of the USA , have already gained 30 cm since the industrial revolution. Until the late 1990s, Greenland’s ice sheet gained as much mass through winter snowfall as it lost in summer through melting ice. 

Over the past twenty years, the intensity of melting has occurred six times faster than the rate estimated before the Industrial Revolution. A complete melting of the Greenland ice sheets would raise sea levels by seven metres.  


In the future, the Cambridge researchers plan to use more distant climate projections, those after 2100, to obtain more precise results. But these first data prove that the current evolution of the climate can have consequences on the next 1,000 years.  

Mehmet S. Kaya
Mehmet S. Kaya
Mehmet is one of the administrator of Teknonel. As a software developer, he loves to share his knowledge in related topics. He is highly familiar with the editorial process from the inception of an article idea, through the iterative process, publishing, and performance analysis as well as product reviews.

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