Sea Level Rise Won't Be a "Hollywood Cataclysm"

September 4, 2008

Sea levels will rise a bit higher—but not catastrophically high—in the coming century, according to a new study.

The oceans will likely rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet (0.8 and 2 meters) by 2100, researchers say.

This is not as high as the predictions from some scientists, who have warned that sea levels may rise as much as 16 feet (5 meters) by 2100.

Just because the amount of sea-level rise predicted in the new study is "not a Hollywood cataclysm, it doesn't mean it's not important," said study leader Tad Pfeffer of the University of Colorado in Boulder.>>

"A Real Outlier"

As greenhouse gases heat up the planet, the polar regions and high elevations are warming the fastest.

(Learn how the greenhouse effect works.)

That has caused glaciers, ice caps, and the vast ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica to melt and break apart. (See photos of Greenland's ice sheets crumbling.)

In the new study, Pfeffer and colleagues examined estimates of 16 feet (5 meters) or more of sea level rise, which they thought seemed unrealistic.

Focusing on outlets, where ice can flow easily across bedrock, the team looked at how much faster Greenland's glaciers would have to move toward the sea to create such a huge sea level rise.

A 16-foot (5-meter) rise would require glaciers to flow at "unrealistically high velocities," Pfeffer said.

"We can't say it's impossible, but [that estimate] is a real outlier," he added.

Continued on Next Page >>


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