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A projection of future sea level

By J. Oerlemans


Evidence is reviewed that suggests faster sea-level rise when climate gets warmer. Four processes appear as dominating on a time scale of decades to centuries: melting of mountain glaciers and small ice caps, changes in the mass balance of the large polar ice sheets (Greenland, Antarctica), possible ice-flow instabilities (in particular on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet), and thermal expansion of ocean water. For a given temperature scenario, an attempt is made to estimate the different contributions. The calculation yields a figure of 9.5 cm of sea-level rise since 1850\ud AD, which is within the uncertainty range of estimates of the 'observed' rise. A further 33 cm rise is found as most likely for the year 2050, but the uncertainty is very large (o = 32 cm). The contribution from melting of land ice is of the same order of magnitude as thermal expansion. The mass-balance effects of the major ice sheets tend to cancel to some extent (increasing accumulation on Antarctica, increasing ablation on Greenland). For the year 2100 a value of 66 cm above the present-day stand is found (o = 57 cm). The estimates of the standard deviation include uncertainty in the temperature scenario, as presented elsewhere in this volume

Topics: Natuur- en Sterrenkunde
Year: 1989
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