A study published today in the journal Science adds to the scientific debate over sea-level rise, saying oceans could rise between a half meter and 1.4 meters by 2100. That translates to between 1.6 feet and 4.5 feet – much higher than previously predicted by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The author, Stefan Rahmstorf, a physicist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, eschewed the use of climate model predictions to draw his conclusions, instead relying on observed data.

The BBC reports:

By plotting global mean surface temperatures against sea level rise, the team found that levels could rise by 59 percent more than current forecasts.

The researchers say the possibility of greater increases needs be taken into account when planning coastal defences. … The team from Germany and the US found that for the timescale relevant to human-induced climate change, the observed rate of sea level rise through the 20th century held a strong correlation with the rate of warming. When applied to the possible scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the researchers found that in 2100 sea levels would be 0.5-1.4m above 1990 levels.

Our story on sea-level rise’s potential local impacts is here.

ROB DAVIS

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