Mankind: Trapped Between Melting Ice Sheets and Rising Seas

Mar 11, 2011· 0 MIN READ
Salvatore Cardoni holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.
An iceberg split off from a glacier floats in the Jakobshavn Fjord in south-west Greenland. (Photo: Ho New/Reuters)

Move over mountain glaciers and ice caps, there’s a new leading contributor to rising sea levels—ice sheets.

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting at an accelerating rate, according to a new NASA-satellite study to be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The rapid melting may push sea levels more than 12 inches higher in the next four decades. That rise is much more sudden and dramatic than other models have predicted.

Found exclusively in Antarctica and Greenland, ice sheets are continental masses of glacial ice and snow that cover at least 50,000 square kilometers of ground, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Antarctica's ice sheet is more than 4,200 meters thick in some areas.

On his Climate Progress blog, eco-guru Joseph Romm summarizes the findings:

The new study is a bombshell because of its credibility and thoroughness—and because it provides perhaps the most credible estimate to date of the sea level rise we face in 2050 on our current emissions path.

Cool. But how will rising sea levels affect mankind—in the United States?

For that answer, look to a recent study from Climate Change Letters, which says that by 2100, more than 180 U.S. cities could be washed out. Specifically, Miami, New Orleans, and Virginia Beach are expected to have 10 percent of their land claimed by the sea.