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2/03/2008

Antarctic ice riddle keeps sea-level secrets

Antarctica
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Any thaw could raise sea levels faster than UN projections. Even if a fraction melted, Antarctica could damage nations from Bangladesh to Tuvalu in the Pacific and cities from Shanghai to New York. It has enough ice to raise sea levels by 57 metres (187 ft) if it melted over thousands of years. Some island nations, such as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, are building defences costing millions of dollars and want to know how high to build. East Antarctica is the world's deep freeze with no sign of a thaw. Temperatures were about minus 15 Celsius (5.00F) at the height of the Antarctic summer. Most experts said it is still impossible to model how the ice will react. "The crux of this problem is that we are moving into an era where WE ARE OBSERVING CHANGES IN THE CLIMATE SYSTEM THAT HAVE NEVER BEFORE BEEN SEEN IN HUMAN HISTORY." Most of the projected sea-level rise by 2100 will be because water in the oceans expands as it warms, with little being added by the ice sheets. Beyond 2100, sea-level rises are likely to go on for centuries. "IN THE LONG RUN WE ARE IN TROUBLE"...Greenland is close to a 'tipping point'," or an irreversible meltdown that would last hundreds of years. Greenland has enough ice to raise world sea levels by 7 metres if it all vanished.
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