Melting of Antarctic ice sheet could raise sea levels by 20%, new study finds

Edited By: Bharat Sharma WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: May 02, 2021, 10:55 PM(IST)

Representative image Photograph:( AFP )

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On multiple occasions, scientists have warned of the dangers posed by expedited melting of ice caps and sheets which could drown towns and cities across the world.  But the potential threat of the increase in sea levels from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet was downplayed till now

Climate change is triggering an unprecedented crisis as ice sheets continue to melt. Now, a new study posits that global sea levels could rise by 20 per cent by the end of this century owing to the continuous melting of West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

On multiple occasions, scientists have warned of the dangers posed by expedited melting of ice caps and sheets which could drown towns and cities across the world. But the potential threat of the increase in sea levels from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet was downplayed till now. This implies that the increase in sea level would be much higher than previously estimated.

The study was published in the journal “Science Advances” and was undertaken by researchers from Harvard University in the United States. They used new calculations based on what they witnessed along the ice sheet, which they’ve referred as a “water expulsion mechanism”.

Also read: Scientists reveal how hot Antarctica will be by 2044 due to climate change

Simply put, the mechanism happens when the solid base of the ice sheet begins to move upwards, decreasing the total weight of the ice sheet. In usual circumstances, the solid base or “bedrock” remains below sea level. But when it lifts itself, the water from the surrounding area is pushed into the ocean, contributing to the global increase in sea levels.

A simulation undertaken by the scientists showed that by the end of the ongoing century, a 20 per cent increase in the water expulsion mechanism could take place along the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. In case the ice sheet completely collapses, the global rise in sea levels would be amplified by an additional metre within 1,000 years.

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Scientists hope that others would follow suit in including the scope of water expulsion effect in further enquiries into the potential collapse of ice sheets on the planet.

(With inputs from agencies)

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