Climate scientists look at the past to predict the future . . . and what they’ve found is cause for concern.

Horton: “What we’re indicating is that a subtle change in temperature causes dramatic increases in sea level.”

That’s Ben Horton of Rutgers University. He studies the geologic record, and says that between 130,000 and 115,000 years ago, sea levels were 20 to 30 feet higher than today.

Back then the global climate was slightly warmer, but Horton expects us to surpass those temperatures this century.

How much – and how quickly sea levels rise as a result – depends in large part on how the polar ice sheets respond.

Ben Horton

Horton: “The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are huge. So you only need a small percentage of those ice sheets to melt to cause global catastrophes.”

And the research is worrisome.

Horton: “The common thought is that the instability of our ice sheets is going to produce sea-level rise of a magnitude of around one, one-point-three meters by 2100, with the ultimate, large magnitude changes occurring over the next 500 years.”

If global warming continues unchecked, there may be dramatic and disruptive changes.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Greenland photo: Courtesy of Bud Ward.

More Resources
Preparing For the Inevitable Sea-Level Rise
Study of Sea-Level Rise Due to Polar Ice-Sheet Mass Loss During Past Warm Periods
Regional Changes: Chesapeake Bay Area

Bruce Lieberman

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...