Journal Highlights

Incorporating Physical Processes into Sea Level Projections

Research Spotlight—

Including the effects of physical mechanisms that can quickly increase ice sheet discharge significantly raises sea level rise projections under high-emission scenarios.

One of the most concerning aspects of global warming is the potential for rising seas to damage infrastructureand property and displace a large proportion of our planet’s population. Since 1993, sea level has increased an average of 3.4 millimeters per year—more than twice as fast as the rate over the first 9 decades of the 20th century.

When projecting future sea levels, scientists have traditionally relied upon physical models and expert assessments to project the polar ice sheets’ response to various emission scenarios. These approaches, however, haven’t taken into account some physical processes that can quickly increase ice sheet discharge, such as the collapse of terminal ice cliffs and the breakup of floating ice shelves caused by a process known as hydrofracturing.

Now Kopp et al. have integrated both of these processes into a probability-based modeling framework to explore how they could affect future projections of global and local sea level changes....more

-- Terri Cook, Freelance Writer,

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