Global temperatures have been rising for the past several decades. Scientists now predict that the consequences of global warming might be even more disastrous than previously predicted. A team of scientists recently published their findings in the journal Climate Dynamics, concerning the effect of the melting arctic ice on the planet.
Instead of using the average conditions over time as most existing models do, their model accounted for fluctuating weather patterns. When these are taken into account, the arctic ice sheet could vanish 20 years sooner than previously thought. This is a serious problem, as the melting of the ice sheet does not only cause rising sea levels, but also an increase in storms and higher temperatures. Ice, being white, plays an important role in reflecting light and heat away from the surface.
“We know ice sheets are melting as global temperatures increase, but uncertainties remain about how much and how fast that will happen,” said C. Forest, professor of climate dynamics at Penn State. “Our findings shed new light on one area of uncertainty, suggesting climate variability has a significant impact on melting ice sheets and sea level rise.”
Accounting for these fluctuating weather patterns gives the outcome of an additional 10 to 12 centimeters of sea level rise by 2100. This on top of the outcome of the normal models which predict a sea level rise of around 27-38 cm.
“If we include variability in the simulations, we are going to have more warm days and more sunshine, and therefore when the daily temperature gets above a certain threshold it will melt the ice,” Forest said. “If we’re just running with average conditions, we’re not seeing these extremes happening on yearly or decadal timescales.”