Short-term Extreme Events Essential in Predicting Future Sea Level Rise

Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, 8 February 2024

This review paper brought together an international team of 29 ice sheet experts to outline a path forward in improving future sea-level rise projections, with a focus on the long-lasting impacts of “short-term” extreme events such as heatwaves and atmospheric rivers. Short-term (i.e. daily to decadal) changes in the atmosphere and ocean can trigger amplifying feedback loops that appear to increase the response of polar ice sheets to rising temperatures. For example, global weather fluctuations can lead to extreme heat and melt events, such as with Greenland in July 2012 and July 2023, and the collapse of the Conger Ice Shelf in Antarctica in March 2022. Authors find that these short-term fluctuations and extreme events, stacked together over longer periods of time, play a key role in ice sheet loss. In other words, Greenland and Antarctica do not respond smoothly to climate warming; instead, these findings make clear their vulnerability to intense periods of thinning, ice shelf break-up, glacier retreat, and increased ice flow produced by extreme air and ocean events. This paper encourages closer collaboration between scientists, policy makers, and other stakeholders to combine research efforts, and ensure a full understanding at local, national and global levels of needed emissions reductions to both prevent, and adapt to the dangers posed by future sea-level rise.

By Amy Imdieke, Global Outreach Director, and Pam Pearson, Director of ICCI.
Published Feb. 13, 2024      Updated Feb. 13, 2024 9:24 pm