20 January 2020

Extreme water level dependent on CO2 emissions and Antarctica

Chance of extreme water levels increases

Extreme sea levels will be more common in the course of the century. The water level is not only dependent on CO2 emissions, but also to a large extent on the contribution of the Antarctic ice sheet. Utrecht scientists publish their findings in Nature Communications.

Antarctica. Credit: IMAU.

The chance of extreme water levels will increase considerably this century. This depends on the one hand on CO2 emissions, but also to a large extent on the specific contribution of Antarctica. That's what Utrecht scientists conclude today in Nature Communications. Even if emissions are reduced to the level of the Paris Agreement, tropical locations will see a sharp increase as a result of the uncertainties in Antarctica's contribution.

A quarter of the world's monitoring stations will by mid-century have water levels that only occur once every hundred years now
Roderik van de Wal

"A quarter of the world's monitoring stations will by mid-century have water levels that only occur once every hundred years now”, says last author Roderik van de Wal. "If emissions remain unchanged, water levels that occurred only once every hundred years will be everywhere in the tropics by the end of the century." Coastal protection measures will therefore need to be improved in many parts of the world in order to reduce risks.  

Antarctic Ice Sheet and emission scenarios controls on the 21-st century extreme sea-level changes.  Thomas Frederikse*, Maya Buchanan, Erwin Lambert*, Robert Kopp, Michael Oppenheimer, D.J. Rasmussen, and Roderik van de Wal*, Nature Communications, 20 January. doi.org/10.10.38/s41467-019-14049-6

 This research was funded by Utrecht University and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).