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Thursday, December 3, 2009

ea levels likely to rise by more than 4 feet by end of this century




Days before the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change kicks off, a major study by a group of 100 international scientists has said that sea levels are likely to rise by more than 4 feet by the end of this century. This is twice as much as previously predicted in the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s fourth assessment report of 2007. The report released by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) is the first comprehensive review of the impact of global warming on Antarctica. The IPCC's 2007 report had projected that sea-levels could rise by 18cm to 59cm by 2099. Subsequent studies of glacial melts in Greenland and Antarctica had raised fears that sea rise could be much higher than that. If these projections come true, most areas in low-lying island nations like the Maldives would go under the sea. Based on earlier studies, the UN's environmental panel has already warned that sea levels would be high enough to make the Maldives uninhabitable by 2100. The new study also significantly enhances the threat to the Indian coast - and cities like Mumbai, Chennai and the low-lying Kolkata.

Since 1870, global sea level has risen by about 20cm at an average rate of 1.7 mm per year. But in recent decades, the rate has risen sharply to 2.5mm per year, according to the latest figures. The rise in sea level is mainly a result of thermal expansion of the ocean due to global warming as well as increased water inflows from melting glaciers and ice caps. The scientists found that there has been significant thinning of the west Antarctic ice sheet and 90% of glaciers across the Antarctic Peninsula had retreated over recent decades. But the bulk of the Antarctic ice sheet has shown little change over recent decades.

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