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  1. Abstract

    Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are causing unprecedented changes to the climate. In 2015, at the United Nations (UN) Conference of the Parties in Paris, France, countries agreed to limit the global mean temperature (GMT) increase to 2°C above preindustrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C. Due to the long‐term irreversibility of sea level rise (SLR), risks to island and coastal populations are not well encapsulated by the goal of limiting GMT warming by 2100. This review article investigates the climate justice implications of temperature targets in light of our increasing understanding of the spatially variable impact and long temporal commitment to rising seas. In particular we highlight the impact that SLR will have on island states and the role of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) in UN climate negotiations. As a case study we review dual impacts from the Antarctic Ice Sheet under a changing climate: (a) recent climate and ice sheet modeling shows that Antarctic melt has the potential to cause rapid SLR with a distinct spatial pattern leading to AOSIS nations experiencing SLR at least 11% higher than the global average and up to 33% higher; and (b) future ice sheetmore »melt will result in a negative feedback on GMT, thus delaying temperature rise. When considering these impacts in conjunction, justice concerns associated with the Paris Agreement are exacerbated.

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  2. Abstract

    Seismic tomography models indicate highly variable Earth structure beneath Antarctica with anomalously low shallow mantle viscosities below West Antarctica. An improved projection of the contribution of the Antarctic Ice Sheet to sea‐level change requires consideration of this complexity to precisely account for water expelled into the ocean from uplifting marine sectors. Here we build a high‐resolution 3‐D viscoelastic structure model based on recent inferences of seismic velocity heterogeneity below the continent. The model serves as input to a global‐scale sea‐level model that we use to investigate the influence of solid Earth deformation in Antarctica on future global mean sea‐level (GMSL) rise. Our calculations are based on a suite of ice mass projections generated with a range of climate forcings and suggest that water expulsion from the rebounding marine basins contributes 4%–16% and 7%–14% to the projected GMSL change at 2100 and 2500, respectively.

  3. Abstract

    Sea level rise (SLR) is a long‐lasting consequence of climate change because global anthropogenic warming takes centuries to millennia to equilibrate for the deep ocean and ice sheets. SLR projections based on climate models support policy analysis, risk assessment and adaptation planning today, despite their large uncertainties. The central range of the SLR distribution is estimated by process‐based models. However, risk‐averse practitioners often require information about plausible future conditions that lie in the tails of the SLR distribution, which are poorly defined by existing models. Here, a community effort combining scientists and practitioners builds on a framework of discussing physical evidence to quantify high‐end global SLR for practitioners. The approach is complementary to the IPCC AR6 report and provides further physically plausible high‐end scenarios. High‐end estimates for the different SLR components are developed for two climate scenarios at two timescales. For global warming of +2°C in 2100 (RCP2.6/SSP1‐2.6) relative to pre‐industrial values our high‐end global SLR estimates are up to 0.9 m in 2100 and 2.5 m in 2300. Similarly, for a (RCP8.5/SSP5‐8.5), we estimate up to 1.6 m in 2100 and up to 10.4 m in 2300. The large and growing differences between the scenarios beyond 2100 emphasize the long‐term benefits ofmore »mitigation. However, even a modest 2°C warming may cause multi‐meter SLR on centennial time scales with profound consequences for coastal areas. Earlier high‐end assessments focused on instability mechanisms in Antarctica, while here we emphasize the importance of the timing of ice shelf collapse around Antarctica. This is highly uncertain due to low understanding of the driving processes. Hence both process understanding and emission scenario control high‐end SLR.

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  4. Abstract

    Retreat or advance of an ice sheet perturbs the Earth's solid surface, rotational vector, and the gravitational field, which in turn feeds back onto the evolution of the ice sheet over a range of timescales. Throughout the last glacial cycle, ice sheets over the Northern Hemisphere have gone through multiple growth and retreat phases, but the dynamics during these phases are not well understood. In this study, we apply a coupled ice sheet‐glacial isostatic adjustment model to simulate the Northern Hemisphere Ice Sheets over the last glacial cycle. We focus on understanding the influence of solid Earth deformation and gravitational field perturbations associated with surface (ice and water) loading changes on the dynamics of terrestrial and marine‐based ice sheets during different phases of the glacial cycle. Our results show that solid Earth deformation enhances glaciation during growth phases and melting during retreat phases in terrestrial regions through ice‐elevation feedback, and gravitational field perturbations have a stabilizing influence on marine‐based ice sheets in regions such as Hudson Bay in North America and Barents and Kara Seas in Eurasia during retreat phases through sea‐level feedback. Our results also indicate that solid Earth deformation influences the relative sensitivity of the North Americanmore »and Eurasian ice sheets to climate and thus the timing and magnitude of their fluctuations throughout the last glacial cycle.

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  5. Uncertainty about sea-level rise is dominated by uncertainty about iceberg calving, mass loss from glaciers or ice sheets by fracturing. Review of the rapidly growing calving literature leads to a few overarching hypotheses. Almost all calving occurs near or just downglacier of a location where ice flows into an environment more favorable for calving, so the calving rate is controlled primarily by flow to the ice margin rather than by fracturing. Calving can be classified into five regimes, which tend to be persistent, predictable, and insensitive to small perturbations in flow velocity, ice characteristics, or environmental forcing; these regimes can be studied instrumentally. Sufficiently large perturbations may cause sometimes-rapid transitions between regimes or between calving and noncalving behavior, during which fracturing may control the rate of calving. Regime transitions underlie the largest uncertainties in sea-level rise projections, but with few, important exceptions, have not been observed instrumentally. This is especially true of the most important regime transitions for sea-level rise. Process-based models informed by studies of ongoing calving, and assimilation of deep-time paleoclimatic data, may help reduce uncertainties about regime transitions. Failure to include calving accurately in predictive models could lead to large underestimates of warming-induced sea-level rise. ▪ Icebergmore »calving, the breakage of ice from glaciers and ice sheets, affects sea level and many other environmental issues. ▪ Modern rates of iceberg calving usually are controlled by the rate of ice flow past restraining points, not by the brittle calving processes. ▪ Calving can be classified into five regimes, which are persistent, predictable, and insensitive to small perturbations. ▪ Transitions between calving regimes are especially important and with warming might cause faster sea-level rise than generally projected. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Volume 51 is May 2023. Please see for revised estimates.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 30, 2024
  6. Previous studies have interpreted Last Interglacial (LIG;129–116 ka) sea‐level estimates in multiple different ways to calibrate projections of future Antarctic ice‐sheet (AIS) mass loss and associated sea‐level rise. This study systematically explores the extent to which LIG constraints could inform future Antarctic contributions to sea‐level rise. We develop a Gaussian process emulator of an ice‐sheet model to produce continuous probabilistic projections of Antarctic sea‐level contributions over the LIG and a future high‐emissions scenario. We use a Bayesian approach conditioning emulator projections on a set of LIG constraints to find associated likelihoods of model parameterizations. LIG estimates inform both the probability of past and future ice‐sheet instabilities and projections of future sea‐level rise through 2150. Although best‐available LIG estimates do not meaningfully constrain Antarctic mass loss projections or physical processes until 2060, they become increasingly informative over the next 130 years. Uncertainties of up to 50 cm remain in future projections even if LIG Antarctic mass loss is precisely known (±5 cm), indicating that there is a limit to how informative the LIG could be for ice‐sheet model future projections. The efficacy of LIG constraints on Antarctic mass loss also depends on assumptions about the Greenland ice sheet and LIG sea‐level chronology. However, improved fieldmore »measurements and understanding of LIG sea levels still have potential to improve future sea‐level projections, highlighting the importance of continued observational efforts.

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  8. Meltwater and ice discharge from a retreating Antarctic Ice Sheet could have important impacts on future global climate. Here, we report on multi-century (present–2250) climate simulations performed using a coupled numerical model integrated under future greenhouse-gas emission scenarios IPCC RCP4.5 and RCP8.5, with meltwater and ice discharge provided by a dynamic-thermodynamic ice sheet model. Accounting for Antarctic discharge raises subsurface ocean temperatures by >1°C at the ice margin relative to simulations ignoring discharge. In contrast, expanded sea ice and 2° to 10°C cooler surface air and surface ocean temperatures in the Southern Ocean delay the increase of projected global mean anthropogenic warming through 2250. In addition, the projected loss of Arctic winter sea ice and weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation are delayed by several decades. Our results demonstrate a need to accurately account for meltwater input from ice sheets in order to make confident climate predictions.