Sea levels to be ‘dominated by melting ice sheets’

Melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica could overtake mountain glaciers as the number one contributor to rising sea levels, according to a NASA study. The research, which has been undertaken over a 20-year period, found large amounts of water from melted ice sheets are filling up the world’s oceans.

Speaking from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the University of California, scientist Eric Rignot said: “That ice sheets will dominate future sea level rise is not surprising – they hold a lot more ice mass than mountain glaciers. What is surprising is this increased contribution by the ice sheets is already happening.

“If present trends continue, sea level is likely to be significantly higher than levels projected by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007. Our study helps to reduce uncertainties in near-term projections of sea level rise.”

An average of 475 billion tonnes was lost from ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland every year over the past two decades, according to estimations from satellite pictures. NASA believes this rate of melting could raise global sea levels by as much as 1.3mm a year.

The study also concluded that melting has accelerated each year, with the two ice sheets combined losing an average of 36 billion tonnes more from one year to the next.

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