One of the major questions for coastal governments and real estate owners is: How fast will sea level rise flooding advance? According to the latest analysis by the United Nation’s Intragovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the answer is: Likely a lot sooner than we’d hoped.
IPCC scientists analyzed data from Antarctica and Greenland and determined that land-based ice and snow are melting six times faster than they did in the 1990s. This is in line with the group’s worst-case scenario.
At this pace of melting, IPCC experts estimate the oceans will rise nearly 7 extra inches over the 21 inches (1.75 feet) they’ve set as their mid-range global sea level rise prediction for the end of the century. That’s a total of 2 1/4 feet of sea level rise.
Andrew Shepherd, a professor of Earth Observations at the University of Leeds, told the Guardian newspaper that if sea levels rise as predicted in the latest estimate, 400 million people will be impacted by coastal flooding; that’s up from 360 million people earlier predicted. “These are not unlikely events with small impacts,” he told the paper. “They are already under way and will be devastating for coastal communities.”
Land-based ice and snow melting in Greenland and Antarctic contribute about a third of the global sea level rise total. The rest comes from expansion of the oceans as they warm and runoff from smaller glaciers.
Greenland and Antarctica seem like a long way away, but their meltwaters could ultimately decide the fate of billions of dollars worth of coastal real estate. To make informed decisions, property owners in at-risk areas need to keep up to date on the pace of ice and snow melt and the stability of their glaciers.