Scientists pin down historic sea level rise

LONDON Thu Mar 29, 2012 4:20am EDT

Ice melt shows through at a cliff face at Landsend on the coast of Cape Denison in Antarctica December 14, 2009. REUTERS/Pauline Askin

Ice melt shows through at a cliff face at Landsend on the coast of Cape Denison in Antarctica December 14, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Pauline Askin

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LONDON (Reuters) - The collapse of an ice sheet in Antarctica up to 14,650 years ago might have caused sea levels to rise between 14 and 18 meters (46-60 feet), a study showed on Wednesday, data which could help make more accurate climate change predictions.

The melting of polar ice could contribute to long-term sea level rise, threatening the lives of millions, scientists say.

Sea levels have increased on average about 18 centimeters (7 inches) since 1900 and rapid global warming will accelerate the pace of the increase, experts say, putting coastlines at risk and forcing low-lying cities to build costly sea defenses.

Scientists last month said that thinning glaciers and ice caps were pushing up sea levels by 1.5 millimeters a year, and experts forecast an increase of as much as two meters by 2100.

A very rapid sea level rise is thought to have occurred 14,650 years ago but details about the event have been unclear.

Some past sea level records have suggested glacier melt led to a 20 meter increase in less than 500 years.

But uncertainty lingered about the source of the melt, its force and its link to the changes in climate.

A team of scientists, including researchers from France's Aix-Marseille University and the University of Tokyo, claim to have solved the mystery which may shed light on climate change.

They reconstructed sea level changes by analyzing samples of coral collected from reefs in Tahiti and dated them to determine the extent and timing of the sea level rise.

"Our results ... reveal that the increase in sea level in Tahiti was between 12 and 22 meters, with a most probable value between 14 and 18 meters, establishing a significant meltwater contribution from the southern hemisphere," said the authors of the study published in the journal Nature.

This implies the rate of sea level rise was more than 40 millimeters a year, they said.

A U.N. climate panel on Wednesday said all nations will be vulnerable to the expected increase in heat waves, intense rains, floods and a probably rise in the intensity of droughts.

(Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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Comments (6)
Phredator wrote:
I read the headline “pin down”, then looked through the article to find the phrases: “might have”, “is thought to have”, “have been unclear”, “uncertainty”, “claim to have”, “may shed light on”, and a couple of guesses “between 12 and 22″ and “between 14 and 18″.

This is not an article about “pinning down” something. This is another in a long long line of articles about scientists saying quite clearly that they are not sure what is happening.

But I guess “Scientists still unsure” doesn’t fit the template.

Mar 29, 2012 8:25am EDT  --  Report as abuse
morbas wrote:
Don’t interpret uncertainty in a dismissal manner. This means they are seeking confirmation from other sources. I can point you to geologic epochs that are as or more severe, times when industrial CO2 did not exist. The premace here is that this has known potential with little uncertainty about what is occuring.

Mar 29, 2012 11:06am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Phredator wrote:
I don’t believe I was “dismissal” as you put it. My premise (premace?) here is that nothing has in fact been pinned down. “Pinning down” means to establish clearly. This article is another in a long long line of articles about scientists saying quite clearly that they are not sure what is happening.

Mar 29, 2012 2:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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