A Terrifying Sea-Level Prediction Now Looks Far Less Likely

This article discusses how a terrifying sea-level prediction now looks far less likely. But experts warn that our overall picture of sea-level rise looks far scarier today than it did even five years ago.

One of the scariest scenarios for near-term, disastrous sea-level rise may be off the table for now, according to a new study previewed at a recent scientific conference.

Two years ago, the glaciologists Robert DeConto and David Pollard rocked their field with a paper arguing that several massive glaciers in Antarctica were much more unstable than previously thought. Those key glaciers—which include Thwaites Glacier and Pine Island Glacier, both in the frigid continent’s west—could increase global sea levels by more than three feet by 2100, the paper warned. Such a rise could destroy the homes of more than 150 million people worldwide.

They are now revisiting those results. In new work, conducted with three other prominent glaciologists, DeConto and Pollard have lowered some of their worst-case projections for the 21st century. Antarctica may only contribute about a foot of sea-level rise by 2100, they now say. This finding, reached after the team improved their own ice model, is much closer to projections made by other glaciologists. These new results have not yet been peer-reviewed.

Yet even MICI’s skeptics agree: Our understanding of sea-level rise is rapidly growing more ominous. In its last major report, in 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected that oceans could rise two feet by 2100 if greenhouse-gas emissions continue on a worst-case trajectory.

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