This map shows projected sea-level rise for different regions of the ocean. The scale bar is in centimeters.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NCAR
Sea-level Rise May Pose Greatest Threat to Northeast U.S., Canada
News story originally written on May 27, 2009
Water from Greenland’s melting ice may cause sea level to rise more in the North Atlantic than anywhere else in the world.
Melting ice sheets cause sea level rise because the water is added to the ocean. But in this case, changes in ocean circulation are causing sea level to rise much faster.
Part of the reason ocean water moves around the ocean basins in this pattern is because the water is salty. Melting ice adds fresh water to the ocean, which could make the currents weaker.
Weaker currents could cause the dense layer of cold water that sits in the deep Atlantic to warm. Since warm water takes up more space than cold water, sea level would rise more than in other places if this water warmed.
To figure out how melting Greenland ice may affect sea level, scientists used a climate model. They tested three possibilities for the future.
First, they used to the model to test what would happen if the amount of ice that melts increases each year just as it has over the past few years. They found that this would cause sea level to rise up to 51 centimeters (20 inches) more than in other places.
Second, they tested what would happen if the amount of ice melt continued to increase, but not quite as fast. They found that this would cause sea level to rise about a foot
Third, the team tested what would happen with only a very small increase in the amount of melt each year. They found that, in that case, sea level wouldn’t rise more than 20 centimeters (8 inches) more than in other places.
Last modified July 31, 2009 by Lisa Gardiner.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
on science education, ranging from evolution
, classroom research
, and the need for science and math literacy
You might also be interested in:
Sea level is the height of the ocean surface. Scientists measure sea level to figure out how much sea level rise is happening now because of global warming. If you tried to draw a flat line at the top...more
This page is not yet developed at the elementary level. Please check back for updates or click on the "Intermediate" button above for information....more
Sea level is creeping higher each year as the Earth warms. As sea level continues to rise, there are many low coastal areas worldwide where homes, towns and cities are in danger of being flooded...more
The world’s oceans, the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Indian, the Arctic, and the Southern Ocean, have different names, but they are really not that different. Water moves between them all the time. So they...more
Frozen water is found in many different places on Earth. Snow blankets the ground at mid and high latitudes during winter. Sea ice and icebergs float in the chilly waters of polar oceans. Ice shelves are...more
Seawater moves through the Atlantic as part of the Global Ocean Conveyor. That’s the way that seawater travels the world’s oceans. The water in the Global Ocean Conveyor moves around because of differences...more
There is a lot of ice on Greenland. But as our planet gets warmer, Greenland’s ice is melting. Scientists have figured out that the ice is melting faster now. More ice melted during the summer of 2007...more