Adding voice to to an often-discordant debate over global warming and its effect on climate and the oceans, two studies were released today in the journal Science which warned that polar ice sheets are melting faster than authorities realize and could eventually submerge the coastal communities worldwide. Without efforts to curb the rise of greenhouse gases, world’s ice sheets could retreat farther by the year 2100 than they have in the past 130,000 years, leading to a huge rise in sea level and eventually may cause coastal cities & low-lying islands such as Tuvalu and the Maldives to disappear.
Researchers from the University of Arizona and the National Center for Atmospheric Research have looked at a period known as the Last Interglaciation.They noted that sea levels rose 20 feet during a warming period 129,000 years ago when shifts in Earth’s orbit caused the Arctic to warm by 3-5 degrees Celsius and said the waters could rise just as high sometime after 2100 if global temperatures continue to climb. However, this time, warming is being caused by greenhouse gases. For decades now, Scientists are warning that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from power plants and vehicle exhaust are warming the planet and raising the seas. Man-made pollutants could hasten melting by darkening the ice and snow, allowing it to absorb more sunlight. This means the effect will be seen at both poles, rather than being chiefly limited to the Northern Hemisphere.
Global temperatures are climbing at a rate that will melt ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica before the end of this century, a disaster that could raise sea levels and scramble weather patterns across the planet, according to the study. Many alarming findings have been uncovered for past sometime now. The worldwide rise in temperatures causes the thermal expansion of the ocean waters and as a result, the Sea levels tend to rise more rapidly than ever. If current warming trends continue, sea levels could rise 3 to 4 feet by the end of this century.
The implications for heavily populated U.S. coastlines can be ominous. Maps released with the studies show extensive coastal areas in Florida, New Orleans and Cape Cod, Mass might one day be submerged. Moreover, rising ocean temperatures are blamed for volatile weather worldwide and are believed to be a contributor to Arizona’s drought, now in its 11th year. Melting ice sheets could worsen those trends.
Other work in the journal Science shows “earthquakes” caused by sudden movement of Greenland’s glaciers are rising. Their computer models show that, in addition to widespread melting of the Greenland ice sheet, this rate of warming could also lead to the collapse of about half the West Antarctic ice sheet in 500 years. Earth could be headed for catastrophic sea level rise in the next few centuries if greenhouse gases continue to rise at present rates The Bush administration, which has often been criticized for not taking steps to combat warming, declined to discuss the latest studies.No one is sure of the extent of the melting or the timing of its effects. But the researchers say that with the warming climate, melting ice sheets in Greenland, the Arctic and Antarctica could inundate coastal areas around the world.