Sea Levels Have Risen 20 Feet Even With Only Slight Increase in Global Warming

Even small increases in global warming can cause so much melting of polar ice that sea levels will rise drastically, a new study shows. (PHOTO CREDIT: David Stanley via Wikimedia Commons)
Even small increases in global warming can cause so much melting of polar ice that sea levels will rise drastically, a new study shows. (PHOTO CREDIT: David Stanley via Wikimedia Commons)

On multiple occasions over the last 3 million years, a new study shows, even a relatively small increase in global warming — 1 to 2 degrees Celsius, the equivalent of 1.8 to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — has caused sea level rises of 20 feet.

The findings by Oregon State University researchers, which will be published this week in the journal Science, have scary implications, because climate models indicate that we may have even bigger temperature increases by 2100. While policy makers have discussed trying to limit temperature increases to 2 C, this study adds to the growing scientific consensus that even that wouldn’t be enough to prevent a future climate catastrophe.

“Studies have shown that both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets contributed significantly to this sea level rise above modern levels,” Anders Carlson, an Oregon State University glacial geologist and paleoclimatologist, and co-author on the study, said in a release.

“Modern atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are today equivalent to those about 3 million years ago, when sea level was at least 6 meters higher because the ice sheets were greatly reduced. “It takes time for the warming to whittle down the ice sheets,” said Carlson, who is in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, “but it doesn’t take forever. There is evidence that we are likely seeing that transformation begin to take place now.”

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SOURCE: Discovery News, Patrick J. Kiger

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