Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sea-level rise too big to be pumped away

10.03.2016

Future sea-level rise is a problem probably too big to be solved even by unprecedented geo-engineering such as pumping water masses onto the Antarctic continent. The idea has been investigated by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact. While the pumped water would certainly freeze to solid ice, the weight of it would speed up the ice-flow into the ocean at the Antarctic coast. To store the water for a millenium, it would have to be pumped at least 700 kilometer inland, the team found. Overall that would require more than one tenth of the present annual global energy supply to balance the current rate of sea-level rise.

“We explored a way to at least delay the rise of sea level we can no longer avoid by even the strictest climate-change mitigation strategies. This is estimated to reach about 40 cm by the end of the century,” says lead-author Katja Frieler.


Waves rolling towards the shore. Photo: thinkstock

“Our approach is definitely extreme, but so is the challenge of sea-level rise.” Burning fossil fuels leads to greenhouse-gas emissions that drive up global temperatures. Consequently, the thermal expansion of ocean water and the melting of glaciers and ice-sheets slowly raise sea levels, which will continue for millennia. Under unabated warming, sea level rise may exceed 130 centimeters by 2100.

+++Sacrificing Antarctica for saving Bangladesh?+++

“This is huge. Local adaptation, for instance building dikes, will not be physically possible or economically feasible everywhere,” Frieler says. “Protection may depend on your economic situation – so New York might be saved, but sadly not Bangladesh, and this clearly raises an equity issue,” she adds.

“Hence the interest in a universal protection measure. We wanted to check whether sacrificing the uninhabited Antarctic region might theoretically enable us to save populated shores around the world.” Rising oceans are already increasing storm surge risks, threatening millions of people worldwide, and in the long run can redraw the planet’s coastlines.

The scientists addressed the problem from an ice-dynamics perspective, using state-of-the-art computer simulations of Antarctica. Since the ice is continually moving, ocean water put on its surface can only delay sea-level rise – and if it is placed too close to the coast, ice-sheet mass loss and thus sea-level rise after some time could even increase, they found. As a consequence the water has to be pumped a long way inland onto the ice sheet.

+++“Even if this was feasible, it would only buy time”+++

The Antarctic ice sheet is up to 4000 meters high, and that would mean an inconceivable engineering effort. Pumping so much water that high up onto the ice sheet requires enormous amounts of energy. Antarctica is very windy, so the power for the pumping could in principle be generated by wind turbines – yet this would require building roughly 850.000 wind-energy plants onto the ice continent. The costs are expected to be much higher than those associated with local adaptation in other studies, though these measures by definition are limited in scope and scale, the scientists state.

“The magnitude of sea-level rise is so enormous, it turns out it is unlikely that any engineering approach imaginable can mitigate it,” concludes co-author Anders Levermann, head of Global Adaptation Strategies at PIK and scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory. “Even if this was feasible, it would only buy time – when we stop the pumping one day, additional discharge from Antarctica will increase the rate of sea-level rise even beyond the warming-induced rate. This would mean putting another sea-level debt onto future generations.” Also, the most sensitive coastal ecosystems of Antarctica would of course be seriously affected by this measure.

+++Greenhouse-gas reductions, local coastal protection, and abandonment+++

If possible at all, delaying the rise by storing water on Antarctica would only show significant effects in a scenario of ambitious climate policy, strictly limiting global warming. “If we’d continue to do business as usual and churn out emissions,” says Levermann, “not even such an immense macro-adaptation project as storing water on Antarctica would suffice to limit long-term sea-level rise – more than 50 meters in the very long term without climate change mitigation. So either way, rapid greenhouse-gas emission reductions are indispensable if sea-level rise is to be kept manageable. In any way substantial investment into long-term local coastal protection will be required if we want to avoid a stepwise abandonment of coastal areas. ”

Article: Frieler, K., Mengel, M., Levermann, A. (2016): Delaying future sea-level rise by storing water in
Antarctica. Earth System Dynamics

Weblink to the article once it is published: http://www.earth-syst-dynam.net/

For further information please contact:
PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
E-Mail: press@pik-potsdam.de
Twitter: @PIK_Climate

www.pik-potsdam.de 

Jonas Viering | Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Colorado River's connection with the ocean was a punctuated affair
16.11.2017 | University of Oregon

nachricht Researchers create largest, longest multiphysics earthquake simulation to date
14.11.2017 | Gauss Centre for Supercomputing

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>