Richard Alley on sea level rise due to polar melting

Uncertainty about sea level rise from climate change looms largest at Earth’s poles, according to many scientists.

EarthSky spoke with polar scientist Richard Alley of Penn State University. He’s a lead author on a report released in late 2007 by the IPCC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Estimates vary, but Alley spoke of a recent rise in sea level of 2.5 centimeters – that’s about an inch – per decade.

Richard Alley: Now when we look to the future, Greenland and Antarctica are the big gorillas. If Greenland were to melt, it’s about 23 feet vertically for sea level.

Lately, Alley said, massive ice sheets have shrunk a little bit and have defied the predictions of the best scientists. EarthSky asked him what he thought is the most important thing to tell the public about global warming today.

Richard Alley: We have high scientific confidence that human activities are changing the composition of the atmosphere, that that is changing the climate, and that will affect most of the living things on the planet. And that as the changes become larger, if they keep doing what we’re doing that the changes become negative for most living things.

Our thanks to NASA, in celebration of the International Polar Year.

Our thanks to:
Richard B. Alley
Evan Pugh Professor
Department of Geosciences, and Earth and Environmental Systems Institute
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA

Photo Credit: Nick Russill

January 28, 2008

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