Sea Level Rise in a Warming World:  Past is Prologue

Friday, February 12, 2016: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Marriott Balcony A (Marriott Wardman Park)
The stability of polar ice sheets in the face of global warming is an issue of significant societal and economic concern. As ice sheets melt, the accompanying rise in sea level will be essentially irreversible on the timescale of centuries. Satellite gravity measurements indicate that the Greenland Ice Sheet and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, the two ice sheets most susceptible to climate change, are experiencing a net loss of mass at a pace that may be accelerating. Further, two independent research teams recently published results suggesting that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may already be in a state of irreversible collapse that could lead to a multi-meter sea level rise over the next century. Researchers studying past warm climate periods have also found evidence for dramatically higher sea levels, signifying that these large ice sheets become unstable in the face of modest climate warming. This symposium examines current field evidence for polar ice sheet change, geologic observations from the last few thousand years that provide context for 20th and 21st century sea level observations, and evidence of sea level rise during past warm periods, including the last interglacial warm period 125,000 years ago. These scientific approaches inform predictions of the likely rate, magnitude, and geographic variability of future sea level rise.
Maureen Raymo, Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Jerry Mitrovica, Harvard University
Sea Level During Past Warm Periods
Ben Horton, Rutgers University
Sea Levels of the Past 2000 Years
Eric Rignot, University of California, Irvine
Evidence for Rapid Changes in Polar Ice Sheet Stability