Increased snowfall will counter the sea-level rise

Two ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica respond differently, reflecting their very distinct local climates.


As reported in the new study, increased snowfall will offset any sea-level rise in the world’s most southern continent. The study by over 60 researchers and 44 institutions used modern methods to calculate projected changes to sea levels.

Using a new generation of climate models used in the newly published Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report, researchers reviewed scientific, technical, and socio-economic information regarding climate change.

The team wanted to see if the projected sea-level rise from the new generation of climate models was different from the previous generation. They found that the increased warming of the latest models results in more melt from the Greenland ice sheet and higher sea level rise by a factor of around 1.5 at 2100.

Professor Tony Payne, Head of Bristol’s School of Geographical Sciences, said“There is little change, however, in projected sea-level rise from the Antarctic ice sheet. This is because increased mass loss triggered by warmer oceans is countered by mass gain by increased snowfall which is associated with the warmer Polar atmosphere.”

“The recent findings suggest that society should plan for higher sea levels, and match with virtually all previous estimates of sea-level rise, in that scientists expect sea levels to continue to rise well beyond 2100, most likely at an accelerating rate.”

“Predicting the mass budget of the ice sheets from estimates of global warming is difficult, and a great many of the processes involved require further attention. Discovering that warmer climates do not affect the Antarctic mass budget, in particular, warrants further examination because this is based on large changes in snowfall and marine melt balancing.”

“One of the main things to take away from this, interestingly, is that the response of two ice sheets and what impact global heating has on them is different and depends heavily on their local conditions.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Antony J. Payne et al. Future sea-level change under CMIP5 and CMIP6 scenarios from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. DOI: 10.1029/2020GL091741
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