Location: 340 Tepper – Grand Room
Speaker: Richard Alley
Topic: Slip Slidin’ Away: Ice Sheets and Sea-Level Rise
Warming melts ice, and melting of ice that is not floating contributes to sea level rise. Sea level now is rising because glaciers in the mountains are melting, the ocean is expanding as it warms, and the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are shrinking a little. The ongoing rate of sea-level rise is only about a foot per century (3.3 mm/yr), but is already contributing to coastal problems in some areas. With continuing warming, the rise is expected to accelerate somewhat. But, the chance exists of a great acceleration if instabilities are triggered in the ice sheets. Attention is especially focused on Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, where collapse may have been triggered already or else be very close, with the potential of raising sea level 10 feet (3.3 m) in a human lifetime. Large uncertainties motivate vigorous research.