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New Study Shows that Sea Level Rise Resulting From Collapse of West Antarctic Ice Sheet Would be Non-Uniform; Some Regions to See Levels Much Higher Than Previously Predicted

Sea-level change in response to the collapse of the WAIS computed by using (A) a standard eustatic sea-level theory and (B) the new model. (C) shows the difference between predictions generated by using the two sea-level theories [(B) minus (A)]. Source: Mitrovica et al. (2009) Click to enlarge.

A new study by researchers at the University of Toronto and Oregon State University concludes that when physical and gravitational factors are applied to projections of sea level rise resulting from a catastrophic collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, the impact on coastal areas is dramatically worse in some parts of the world than predicted so far.

They found that the catastrophic increase in sea level, already projected to average between 16 and 17 feet around the world (~5m), would be almost 21 feet in such places as Washington, DC, putting it largely underwater. Many coastal areas would be devastated. Much of southern Florida would disappear.

Recent projections of sea-level rise after a future collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (for example, the Fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report) assume that meltwater will spread uniformly (eustatically) across the oceans once marine-based sectors of the West Antarctic are filled. (The WAIS is grounded below sea-level. Under a WAIS melt scenario, the underwater volume formerly filled by ice would be filled first.)

The new study, by Jerry Mitrovica and Natalya Gomez at the University of Toronto and Peter Clark at Oregon State University, shows that the sea-level rise in excess of the eustatic value will be ~30% higher than previously predicted for US coastal sites.

“We aren’t suggesting that a collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is imminent. But these findings do suggest that if you are planning for sea level rise, you had better plan a little higher. ”
—Prof. Peter Clark

The report is published in the 6 February issue of the journal Science. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and other agencies from the US and Canada.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated that a collapse of the WAIS would raise sea levels around the world by about 16.5 feet, on average, and that figure is still widely used. However, that theoretical average does not consider several key forces, such as gravity, changes in the Earth’s rotation or a rebound of the land on which the massive glacier now rests, the authors say.

The ice sheet has a huge mass, towering more than 6,000 feet above sea level over a large section of Antarctica that’s about the size of Texas. This mass is sufficient to exert a substantial gravitational attraction, researchers say, pulling water toward it.

The rapid melting of ice sheets and glaciers leads to a sea-level change that departs dramatically from the assumption of a uniform redistribution of meltwater. An ice sheet exerts a gravitational attraction on the nearby ocean and thus draws water toward it. If the ice sheet melts, this attraction will be reduced, and water will migrate away from the ice sheet. The net effect, despite the increase in the total volume of the oceans after a melting event, is that sea level will actually fall within ~2000 km of the collapsing ice sheet and progressively increase as one moves further from this region.

—Mitrovica et al. (2009)
View an NSF video interview with University of Toronto professor of geophysics Jerry X. Mitrovica and graduate student Natalya Gomez; and Oregon State University glacial geologist Peter U. Clark.

Aside from incorporating the gravitational effect, the new study adds further factors to the calculation—the weight of the ice forcing down the land mass on which it sits, and also affecting the orientation of the Earth’s spin. When the ice is removed, it appears the underlying land would rebound, and the Earth’s axis of rotation defined by the North and South Pole would actually shift about one-third of a mile, also affecting the sea level at various points.

If the West Antarctic Ice Sheet completely melted, the East Coast of North America would experience sea levels more than four feet higher than had been previously predicted—almost 21 feet—and the West Coast, as well as Miami, Fla., would be about a foot higher than that. Most of Europe would have seas about 18 feet higher.

It’s still unclear, Clark said, when or if a breakup of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet might occur, or how fast it could happen. It may not happen for hundreds of years, he said, and even then it may not melt in its entirety. Research should continue to better understand the forces at work, he said.

However, these same effects apply to any amount of melting that may occur from West Antarctica. So many coastal areas need to plan for greater sea level rise than they may have expected.

—Peter CLark


  • Jerry X. Mitrovica, Natalya Gomez, Peter U. Clark (2009) The Sea-Level Fingerprint of West Antarctic Collapse. Science Vol. 323. no. 5915, p. 753 doi: 10.1126/science.1166510

  • Digital images and video of projected impact

  • Digital image of Antarctica if it consisted only of land actually above sea level



Good, maybe all that extra water will stop the moon from escaping.


Gosh, how did I know before reading this that the worst effects would be for the U.S.? The campaign of fear continues unabated.


So the US gets most of the increase.


"Nixed VP Algore to sell SF waterfront mansion due to rising tide."
Loathsome Times

Ain't nature great?

Stan Peterson

More FUD.

Another in the current series of "studies" that assume all the grim forebodings of the GHC models are true. Even the ones long proven false by reality of measuring their predictions from the 1980s-1990s, and comparing them to today.

If the WAIS ice sheet were to melt, it is left unsaid that the IPCC itself has estimated that it would take a minimum of 7000 years or so to do so. Even in their most extreme raised temperatures of 5 degree warming by 2100.

But until a recent reported single measurement by the FUD makers, including Dr. Mann so famous for rhis ridiculous "Hockey Stick" so favored by Warmists, there has been no warming of the WAIS, despite numerous and continuous measurement.

But Dr.Mann was able to piece together a "study" recently, that showed the WAIS might be warming, slightly. It contradicts ALL the other measurments taken, but was grasped by the increasingly desperate Warmists. It turns out on further investigation that it is based on a single robotic recording station that went off the air for several years and "miraculously" started reporting once again. When investigators arrived to investigate, the robotic station was discovered to be partially exposed as it had been buried for years in the newly accumulating ICE, and freakishly was now partially exposed once again. But its partially crushed instrument package was reporting erroneous information.

So desperate are the Warmists for any new data to affirm their fervently believed near religion, that they build these castles of air, on top of suppositions of fluff, that are certifiably untrue.

So much for the "Warming" of the WAIS that continues by all other measures to grow increasingly COLDER.

Even if it did start to warm, long before 7000 years went by, the World would enter the next glaciation or Ice Age, so the melting would stop, then.


When Mann first made the hockey stick graph he was very explicit about there being uncertainties and possible mistakes in the data being used. That part isn't mentioned by the AGW deniers. After the hockey stick graph has been corrected, the new graph ...... well doesn't look too much different.
""more widespread high-resolution data are needed before more confident conclusions can be reached and that the uncertainties were the point of the article." Mann and his colleagues said that it was "hard to imagine how much more explicit" they could have been about the uncertainties surrounding their work and blaming "poor communication by others" for the "subsequent confusion." He has further suggested that the criticisms directed at his statistical methodology are purely political and add nothing new to the scientific debate.""

The IPCC has been very clear that it does not understand the dynamics of how either of the ice sheets will respond to global warming, or how long it will take them to melt. They may throw out figures of so much % per decade, but they are purely guesses, and they state that very clearly.

The arctic is melting fast, with this winter being one of the warmest on record and winter ice depth at one of its thinnest ever.

The Wilkins ice shelf is about to break off from Antarctica.


A year ago I heard an amateur astronomer observe the ' rebound effect' as a repositioning of the gravitational center that will mean sea level rise will vary depending on location.

The rebound effect and the chance of mass at the poles was expected to have a substantial effect and this understanding informed the understanding of reported and predicted variations in the sea levels expected.
With my very limited knowledge of such matters, I could only glean the principle of the concept.

As the report seems to indicate, while making certain assumptions, there are a progression of shifts or knock on effects that would occur in association with these changes.

The particular effect described at the time was to associate rapid shifts as land masses and crust repositioned.

I was left behind at the start post back then and may have somewhat missed the this 'slow' effect.
We are all somewhat more respectful in recent years of the consequences of undersea generated tsunami caused by earthquakes generated by just such realignments.

Will S

The campaign of fear continues unabated.

That's what the radar operator on Hawaii was told on the morning of Dec 7, 1941.

Fortunately, we have a form of radar, though there are those who are victims of propaganda who themselves become part of the propaganda Borg. Those scientists are just evil people out to confuse us, and the fossil fuel company operatives and their paid shills really have our best interests in mind (and those of our children, of course). Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...


Of course if we implement a cap N' trade scheme and send the billions $$ gross to Algore & cult, the invasion will be called off. Can anyone spell L-O-W L-I-F-E T-H-I-E-V-E-S??

If I was a lazy, self-inflated ferner, I'd extort the little simians for all they worth! (which ain't that much considering my inflated expenses)

Andrey Levin

“…when … catastrophic collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet…”

And when my grangma will have balls she will be my grandpa.


"""Of course if we implement a cap N' trade scheme and send the billions $$ gross to Algore & cult, the invasion will be called off. Can anyone spell L-O-W L-I-F-E T-H-I-E-V-E-S??"""

Of course that money would be going to Al Gore. I guess, the oil corporations extorting ~ $200 a month out of every person who wants to drive a car or ride a bus AREN'T LOWLIFE THIEVES?

A carbon cap n' trade system will raise the price of emitting CO2 to a level where alternative energy sources become competitive, and when that happens, economies of scale will kick in and the price of solar energy and electric cars will go way down. When that happens, every person who owns a roof will be producing their own electricity, saving that $200 a month extortion fee that used to go straight to the oil corporations and the war in Iraq. They will be able to drive their cars 30 km a day for free simply by parking them in the sunshine to charge them up all day. Oh yes, that's thievery in my books!!! Thievery from the oil corporations. LOL.

The peopl to benefit from this are every consumer in teh world, the companies and economies who are now investing in alternative technologies, and of course Al Gore since he is probably also ivnvested in this.

The AGW deniers' constant tirade against Al Gore is getting tiresome and pointless. We all knwo he's a politician, and doing what politicians do. I would never argue that. However, the underlying message behind his political antics and hyperbole is valid. Move on people.


The point is MarkBC, all those things (alternatives) can happen without the skulduggery of a cap n' trade scheme. If as loudly touted, we are near, close to or IN peak oil - the cost of that oil will rise. Higher oil and gas prices is what cap n trade is supposed to achieve.

But commodity trading (aka Cap n' Tirade) is fraught with insider deceit and subterfuge, run by Chicago Board and Wall Streeters who care little for environment. T-H-I-E-V-E-S. And the whole premise rests on a collapsing theory of CO2 and AGW. Which these days has lost all credibility.

AGW cultists should muzzle the Goracle to save future embarrassment. Between him and Hansen - AGW claims are more hilarious than an episode of Mork and Mindy.

BTW, what about the millions of apartment dwellers? Retirees, young folks and low income brackets? Don't they get to benefit from the free solar boom?


"""And the whole premise rests on a collapsing theory of CO2 and AGW. Which these days has lost all credibility."""

Oh, how so? Can you show me how Earth's temperatures and CO2 are not related? I guess you don't pay much attention to all the warming that's taking place. Provide some Reel evidence. It is not a cult to observe that arctic sea ice is dramatically shrinking, and that the Canadian arctic is free of an ice sheet, and that right next door is Greenland (same latitude), and that it too seems likely to melt. 1+1+1 probably equals 3.

Most of what Gore prophesized has more or less come true. Polar warming is happening much faster than predicted even by extreme scientists 10 years ago. The hurricane stuff is pretty much politics, I'll grant you that, although it will likely happen to some extent or the other in the future.

"""BTW, what about the millions of apartment dwellers? Retirees, young folks and low income brackets? Don't they get to benefit from the free solar boom?"""

If they park their cars outside they will get to drive 30 km a day for free. They will not have to pay $1.50 a litre gas. They will not be subject to the crazy economic swings brought about in part by the oil cartels' sinister manipulation of oil supply and NiMH patents. Their utilities bill will go down dramatically once the Southwest starts massively producing electricity in their deserts and on the roof of every warehouse.

"""Higher oil and gas prices is what cap n trade is supposed to achieve. """

Yes, but with an unassisted increase in oil prices due to peak oil, those profits go to the oil corporations and the likes of Cheney, Cond'y and Bush (unsrupulously ethical people themselves, in comparison to Gore). With a cap and trade system the oil corporations' cut is reduced.

You have somewhat of a point though, with electric cars to be out in force within 5 years, who would want to buy a gasoline car? The 50 year long scam of the automotive / oil industry will soon be over. I see a parallel between the emergence of the electric car and digital photography. Before digital cameras existed, there was only film. Any digital camera that came out was pretty bad so no one would buy it. Eventually someone made one that was a viable alternative for certain uses. That fueled the economies of scale and resulted in the fierce competition that has led to the amazing innovations in digital photography over the last 10 years. Now, except for specialized applications, who would use film? But that shift didn't happen until the economies of scale and technical innovation made a digital camera that got <> over the hump. The oil corporations have been trying to keep the market behind a similar hump through their purchase of the NiMH patent, and overall as a society we have allowed them to do that, but that will soon be circumvented with Lithium ion batteries.

However, there's still aviation, long haul trucking and shipping, along with conventional electricity generation that still need a nudge to help them reduce CO2 output.


"That's what the radar operator on Hawaii was told on the morning of Dec 7, 1941."

Actually FDR wrote his famous Day of Infamy speech days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Sounds more like Day of Deceit.

Actually the sea level rise is good news indeed. I'll end up with ocean front property without paying a dime.



Canadian sea ice February 2008:

"Canadian scientists are also noticing growing ice coverage in most areas of the Arctic, including the southern Davis Strait and the Beaufort Sea.

"Clearly, we're seeing the ice coverage rebound back to more near normal coverage for this time of year," said Gilles Langis, a senior ice forecaster with the Canadian Ice Service in Ottawa."

Current temperatures in arctic regions are significantly lower than last year.

Solar car roofs:

You're being overly optimistic to think that any PV panel installed in a car roof will generate more than enough energy to power an EV further than 2.5 miles. PV technology, while improving will not be recharging an entire 10-20kWh battery for quite some time - even parked in the Mojave desert.

Your analogy to digital photography is interesting. Chemical film emulsion as the preferred photo medium HAS been replaced by digital technology without the need for accelerated "film taxes." Intelligent consumers have rapidly adopted a new technology on the basis of value, quality and economy.

My point is, we do not need the embarrassment of a failed AGW campaign to transition to sustainable energy. The money saved by not chasing a phantom carbon dragon can go to more pressing problems like, hunger, disease and education.

Global Energy Independence - replaces Global Warming without the need to fabricate science. We're not that far apart.


Oh really?

In summer you can count on 500 watts per square meter shining down for about 8 hours a day (1200 W hits the Earth but you lose a lot in the atmosphere). Let's say you have on average 5 square meters of solar panels on your car (pull them over the windows when not using it). Multiply that out, you get 20 kilowatt hours of energy shining down on you car. Let's assume PV panels will improve in efficiency over the next 5 years to yield 30% efficiency. That gives 7 kWh. Next, drop it a little bit for efficiency losses in charging the batteries, let's drop it to 6 kWh. Now, let's look at the Tesla Roadster performance. It gets 2.18 km per MJ. Using this number, which will only improve in the future as the technology is improved, and knowing that 1 kWh equals 3.6 MJ, you get 47 km of FREE driving per sunny summer day, providing you keep your car clean! The numbers don't lie! I don't know where your 2.5 miles figure comes from.

Oh okay ..... let's be nice to Reel$$ and drop our calculated number from 47 km to 30 km to account for things like shorter winter days or cloudy conditions.



Current temperatures in arctic regions are significantly lower than last year.""

The information in this article is in complete contradiction to what was stated in mine above from MSNBC. Hmm, I wonder who to believe. I guess we won't really know until the winter's over and the tally's in.

However, it still seems odd when I hear people suggesting that the arctic is not melting when over the last 3 decades sea ice has been steadily and dramatically reduced to its lowest year ever last year, and then POTENTIALLY, this year, it is possible that sea ice MIGHT return to the AVERAGE extent for the whole period (not even above average), and they seem ready to throw it all away...... That's not valid statistics.


You're WAY too optimistic (and in a time when that's out of style!) The Fisker, one of the only EVs with a PV panel puts it this way:

"It can add only about 5 all-electric miles a week if the car is parked in the sun all the time, says Fisker's Russell Datz, so the feature is as much about bragging rights as utility."

More typically on any car will be a maximum of 1 sq meter of PV (until PV paint or laminate comes along). So @ 500W/sq meter * .20% real efficiency of PV = 100W of Reel$$ energy * 4 hours average real sunlight = 400W/day. Enough to run the little air cooler fan in the dash to keep the interior from reaching 40C in the desert.

The Volt uses 8kWh of its battery for 40 mile AER or 200Wh/mile - So, in the Reel$$ world you get 2-3 miles AER from an average day parked in the sun.

As for the ice. If you're a Reel$$ Canadian, you'd believe the senior ice forecaster with the Canadian Ice Service in Ottawa.


Perhaps some have strayed off the point of conversation. Sea level rise is a very real issue if you live in Bangladesh or Australia... they're somewhere near China.
If you enjoy a week of consecutive days over 40 degrees C, that's 104 F, firestorms that destroy countryside like in California in Victoria, and flooding of North Queensland, that's an area in Australia the size of Texas, then You shouldn't worry about climate change. Check it out on the ABC news website, its happening right now. I think at some point you have to call it. Climate change 1, Humans 0.


@Reel & Mark

Reel, Why would a real Canadian believe anything that comes out of a Steven Harper's Ottawa?

Actually the article- -is pretty damning to the denier's cause.

It starts with the title "Recent cold snap helping Arctic sea ice" A 'cold SNAP': A short period of time that wont last. It talks about recovering ice lost in the last three years when we've been losing ice for forty years, it says "making the ice thicker in some areas, compared to recorded thicknesses last year" when last year was near the record minimum. And "it's too soon to say what impact this winter will have on the Arctic summer sea ice, which reached its lowest coverage ever recorded in the summer of 2007."


""maximum of 1 sq meter of PV (until PV paint or laminate comes along)""

We have flexible solar panels nowadays (I have weatherproof ones for backpacking that charge all my camera and radio batteries in a matter of hours). Manufacturers could incorporate them into the body of the car tomorrow if they wanted to. I could certainly measure more than 1 square meter of area on a car!

You get more than 4 hours of usable sunlight per day! Unless you are in Norway in winter! In summer in Canada count on 10 hours! In LA count on about 8 hours almost year round!!

And if you covered your windows in your car with solar panels you wouldn't have a GREENHOUSE EFFECT and heat it up to 60 celsius in the sun, so you could instead put that extra energy from covering your car with 5 square meters of solar panels into doing something useful, instead of powering a fan to blow air into your car (really useful...) ... and ..... Oh I don't know ..... CHARGE YOUR BATTERIES???

I find it interesting how in your article the guy states that people wouldn't like the aesthetics of solar panels on their car!!! Whoa, they didn't ask me! Maybe if they're big ugly square honky things bolted on the paneling (like he is selling), sure, but if they are incorporated into the body work during manufacture then they would look no different than a funky paint job. I like the look of my solar panel! I remember a few years ago Nissan was selling its Chilkoot edition Pathfinder for MORE money if it had that checker board carbon fiber pattern on the interior paneling!!! That looks just like a solar panel and people were PAYING to have it!

Of course right now it's too expensive to do it economically, but that's how cell phones and digital cameras and laptop computers started out! The naysayers leave no room for improvement in technology or economics. Why? Because they're naysayers!!!

These guys say they can drive their Prius an extra 14 km a day using solar panels


Jesse 67

If someone has a nobel idea with good intentions, like a solar car, why are we so quick to critisize and shut them down? Does it matter what someone's reason is for using less fossil fuels? They may believe that by doing so they are helping to prevent global warming, maybe they want to stick it to the man! or maybe they're just greedy and are only doing it to save money. There's a simple fact that many people don't seem to understand, using less resources is good for everybody except those of us who make their living by exploiting others. Be it food, water, material goods, power or oil a smaller footprint means;
-less impact on global warming (weather or not you believe in it)
-less depletion of the world's natural resources
-less garbage, polution, and waste in general
-less negative impact on the environment (ie habitat loss)
-more resources left for those who don't have enough (the majority of the world's population)
-more money left in your pocket!

So now that everyone has more money they just buy more stuff right? How about education, experiential instead of material entertainment, working less or maybe even supporting worthy causes?

There is no science that can proove that using less "stuff" will have anything but positive effects on the earth or society.

If you think the sea level is going to rise 5m why not use this as an excuse to reduce your footprint instead of an excuse to be more afraid? If you don't believe the seas will rise what's stopping you from using less anyways? Not enough other good reasons for you?

As an engineer I can say from experience that the glass is twice as large as it needs to be, and that means that once you fix it the glass is full.

Will S

“Nixed VP Algore…More FUD…Warmists….Algore & cult…L-O-W L-I-F-E T-H-I-E-V-E-S??... skulduggery…AGW cultists…"

This does not represent reasoned discourse, and does not advance one's position. This type of bombast went out with the Republican majority. Every time I see it now, I'm convinced the other side must have a genuine point.


I just read an article about the Audubon Society that has stated the most bird populations have migrated their ranges north about 35 miles or so since 1968. They think this is due to global warming. Obviously, the Audubon Society is in cahoots with the vast global warming conspiracy, right? The notebooks from thousands of birdwatchers have be adulterated (beginning in the 1960's) so that the then-highschooler Al Gore could assume his ascendancy precisely and exactly as planned.

Or maybe not.

I've grown wary and weary of those that point to a conspiracy or cult to explain scientific affirmation of global warming. Like Will S says, it mostly convinces me that the other side is probably right.

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