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Los Alamos National Laboratory is confronting one of the most alarming and most poorly understood implications of global warming.
What would happen if the vast ice sheets of West Antarctica or Greenland, both already showing signs of climate stress, began to melt even faster?
How long might it take for sea levels to rise? Would oceans swell by several meters and cause harbors and beaches to flood? What islands might become totally submerged?
How quickly would that happen?
The risk is called abrupt climate change, but it’s also known as “the nasty surprise,” “the jokers in the deck” or “the tipping point,” that precipitous moment when a trend becomes a catastrophic problem.
Bill Lipscomb of Los Alamos National Laboratory has been modeling sea ice, which he said does not directly contribute to the ocean level problem.
Even if the Arctic sea ice almost disappears in the summer by 2040 as LANL’s models have predicted under one scenario, that won’t add to the ocean level, because the volume is already there.
In recent years the menacing possibility of an abrupt change over the course of a decade rather than a century, has called greater attention to all the fresh water that has been locked up in ice sheets, covering land primarily in Greenland and Antarctica.
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