Ice2sea is a programme of scientific research to quantify the contribution of global ice to sea-level rise in order to produce better estimates of its extent over the next century.
Today, sea level is rising 3mm per year and by the end of this century (2100) scientists expect it will be at least 30 cm higher than the year 2000. With climate change that figure could be even larger, perhaps closer to 1 metre. The aim of the ice2sea project is to determine a better estimate of this figure.
The vast ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, as well as smaller glaciers and ice caps around the world, are among the least understood contributors to sea-level rise. Understanding the complex mechanisms which determine their future development will help produce more reliable estimates of sea-level changes. Based on the outcomes of this research, ice2sea aims to advise policymakers across Europe on how best to protect the future of European coastlines and prepare for the social and economic impacts of sea-level changes.
The Earth System – the sum of all natural parts of our planet – consists of the atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (water), lithosphere (solids), biosphere (living matter) and heliosphere (particles emanating from the Sun). Within this system, local changes, such as a volcanic eruptions, may have global-scale consequences. Similarly, a global shift may have no noticeable effect at all in one part of the world while spelling disaster for another part. It is a system of such intricacy and complexity that it is very difficult to fully represent its entirety using a computer model. However, modelling is an important aspect of ice2sea research and focuses on local-scale assessments which gradually improve our understanding of the bigger picture.
This is of great importance because, rather than being a static system, the Earth system is constantly changing. Countless variables that make up the system interact in many ways – some well understood, others hardly explored. Global sea level is one such variable – and it is of great significance in many global-scale interactions. We now know that during the last ice age, sea levels were up to 120m lower than today because so much water was bound in ice sheets covering entire continents. It is less widely known, however, that sea levels have not been at all constant even over the last few millennia: they have been rising at varying speeds both globally (due to climatic variability) and regionally (due to the Earth’s crust changing shape).
Sea levels, and their evolution in the near future, will impact coastal communities across Europe and the wider world. Ice2sea projections of future sea-level rise will reduce uncertainty so that coastal defence planners can make effective preparations for the future.
The scientific research undertaken by ice2sea covers three overarching themes: