Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko Churchill | December 2, 2009

Let’s go swimming.

It’s  2059 and the world’s seas have risen by at least 1.5 meters compared to base level of 1990.

London is mostly under water like Amsterdam…

At the very least…. sea levels will rise by about five feet (1.5 meters) without anything more drastic than  the expected business as usual (and with the COP15 in effect) global warming of an additional 2 degree Celcius.

That is assuming no other major climate forcing events or catastrophes in the next forty years.

But if we are unlucky and we get a 3C warming – the sea rise will be double that again.  Much like compound interest for the bankers who understand the power of it – global warming and sea level rises are compounded.   

A review of climate change in Antarctica forecasts that by 2049  we will likely experience this sea level rise.

If we escape that, then by 2100 we will certainly experience the sea level rise of 1.4 meters at least. This is a certainty.

Absolute water level rise to levels previously considered by IPCC modelers as too extreme to be realistic and too frightful to be communicated widely. 

And all that water level rise without counting the tipping melt of the Arctic and/or the Greenland ice sheets. Not even counting the effect of all the land based glaciers which are melting and disappearing the fastest, either. 

All this because, just a small portion of the Antarctic – the one studied extensively – the West Antarctic ice shelf is breaking away and melting in the sea. This will cause your kids to go swimming in their bedrooms.

Just the West Antarctic – Never mind the vast East Antarctic ice melt that’s just as perilous if not more so in it’s sea level rise effect than the West Antarctic….

The East Antarctic is breaking apart too and some of it’s broken off bits are huge icebergs floating off. Some even made it all the way to New Zealand this week and not without melting… But the East antarctic will be the focus of the next data set review. For now we focus on the West Antarctic alone in our modeling that’ s giving us the present headache.

The specific data set review, compiled in a report called: ”Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment”, was compiled and peer reviewed by 100 scientists associated with the international Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. Using 20 of the most up-to-date models that take into account the complex behaviour of the ozone hole over Antarctica, as well as the most recent observations of ice loss, the review predicts that the area of sea ice around Antarctica would certainly shrink by 33 per cent – 2.6 million square kilometres – by 2100, leading to a sea-level rise of 1.4 metres. But more assuredly this sea level will be reached by 2050.

”This is the first comprehensive review of Antarctic climate change that covers how the climate of the icy continent has changed from deep time,” says John Turner of the British Antarctic Survey, lead editor of the report. The report also makes predictions about how the Antarctic climate will change over the next century.

For the past 30 years, the hole in the atmosphere’s ozone layer above Antarctica has protected the bulk of the continent from the effects of climate change by generating fierce winds. In that time, sea ice around the continent has increased by 10 per cent.

The new report warns that when the ozone hole heals – and it will, possibly by the end of the century – Antarctica will feel the full force of global warming, with temperatures rising by as much as 3 °C by 2100.

The report backs the predictions of Stefan Rahmstorf at Potsdam University, Germany, whose own work suggests that given the speed at which West Antarctica’s ice sheets are shrinking, sea levels are likely to rise by 1.4 metres by 2100. In contrast, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment, published in 2007, predicted 59 centimetres.

“I am not the one to judge my own paper, but there is indeed indication that these higher numbers – not only from my study, by the way – are now the new mainstream,” says Rahmstorf.

The IPCC’s sea-level rise projections are considered to be conservative, as they don’t take into account the fact that Antarctica’s loss of ice will accelerate as temperatures rise over the continent.

By 2100, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet alone could lose enough ice mass to raise sea levels globally by “tens of centimetres,” Turner says.

Despite the transformations climate change will create on Antarctica, the study concludes on an upbeat note: only a few of the continent’s species are likely to become extinct by 2100.

Many marine creatures can survive a change in temperature of 5 to 10 °C before dying, but “a rise of this magnitude in the Southern Ocean is extremely unlikely to be survived by many in 2100”, the study says

Of course we won’t be alive then – so who cares. 

Our remnants though; will float off the cemeteries mixing it up with those unlucky enough to be alive Post Katrina style.  As it was in New Orleans when the corpses in their boxes, floated off the flooded cemeteries mixing it up and swimming with the living.

What can I say?  

A second chance to swim free – can’t be all that bad.


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