2005-06-15

Antarctica and sea level rise

There's a convoluted post over at World Climate Report. Its about the recent Science paper (Davis, C.H., et al., 2005. Snowfall-driven growth in East Antarctic ice sheet mitigates recent sea-level rise. SciencExpress, May 19, 2005.). This paper tells us that East Antarctica elevation is increasing, probably because its gaining mass. Thats exactly what global warming tells us should happen, and of course its factored into the IPCC predictions of sea level rise (chapter 11). The WCR post content is so badly distorted by its presentation that I thought I'd try to interpret it here.

So: E Ant is getting bigger; fair enough. What WCR don't point out is that this is only a small fraction of the SLR from other sources, mainly thermal expansion. As far as can be told, its just about balanced by Greenland melting (at the moment, and very roughly into the future too).

They also attempt some kind of counterpoint against the warming/melting on the Antarctic peninsula and/or West Antarctica. Weeelllll... the main point about the Peninsula stuff is that it is a sudden dramatic warming with consequences (locally). The impact on SLR is small though. The point about West Antarctica is that there is potentially a lot of SLR in there. Current best-guess is that its going to stay potential, with an unknown chance (10%? 5%? take your own guess) of a nasty surprise of 1-2 m of SLR from some kind of surge over... 1 century? 2? Take your own guess again.

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