Antarctica, Greenland ice melting could spur extremes

If you think the weather has been crazy lately, just wait until global warming really kicks in.

A scientific study released Wednesday suggests that melting ice from the world’s coldest regions such as Greenland and Antarctica could bring more extreme weather and unpredictable temperature changes around the world.

How will this happen? “According to our models, this melt water will cause significant disruptions to ocean currents and change levels of warming around the world,” said the study’s lead author, Nick Golledge of Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. 

He said this increased temperature variability in both the atmosphere and the oceans could result in more frequent extreme weather events. 

The research predicts that in some parts of the world, hot and cold snaps will get longer and deeper, wet spells will get soggier and dry stretches will get longer, the Canadian Press reported.

“Melt from these ice sheets is going to significantly disrupt the global climate, making temperatures in some areas vary much more from one year to the next,” Golledge said. “This unpredictability is going to prove extremely disruptive for all of us and will make adaptation and planning much more difficult.”

There was some potential good news in a second study also published Wednesday: Scientists in that study said that rising sea levels from the melting ice in Antarctica may not be as big of a threat this century than had been thought: “Unstable ice cliffs in Antarctica were proposed as a cause of unstoppable collapse of large parts of the ice sheet in the past,” said the second study’s lead author, Tamsin Edwards of King’s College London.

“They were, therefore, also predicted to cause rapidly rising seas with global warming in our near future,” he said. “But we’ve re-analyzed the data and found this isn’t the case.” 

More: Yes, Chicago will be colder than Antarctica, Alaska and the North Pole on Wednesday

More: Antarctic sea ice melts to record low for January

More: Antarctic ice melting 6 times faster than it did in ’80s

Scientists in the study predict that there is only a 5 percent chance that the Antarctic contribution to sea-level rise will exceed 15 inches by 2100. The most likely rise is about 5 to 6 inches. 

However, such an increase would still wreak havoc on coastal cities around the planet. And unless greenhouse-gas emissions are reduced, the more extreme sea-level rise would be postponed, but not avoided.

Study co-author Natalya Gomez of McGill University in Montreal said that “water levels would not simply rise like a bathtub. Some areas in the world, such as the island nations in the Pacific, would experience a large rise in sea level, while close to the ice sheets the sea level would actually fall.”

Golledge told National Geographic that “the sea-level estimates maybe aren’t as bad as we thought, but the climate predictions are worse.”

The studies were published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature. 


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