How is land ice changing in the Arctic and what is the influence on sea level?

Published: 2017
Product type: Science Brief
Categories: Land Ice & Sea Level Rise

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Changes in Arctic land ice area and volume directly influence sea level rise locally, regionally, and globally. Understanding where land ice is being lost and how quickly it is disappearing is key to projecting the rates of sea level rise around the globe.

Why it matters

Globally, land ice is shrinking due to a rapidly warming climate and ocean. This lost land ice is a major contributor to global sea level rise. The pace of future land ice loss is projected to increase as warming increases, causing an acceleration in the rate of sea level rise. Glaciers, with the potential to raise sea level almost 50 cm, will retreat faster in ever-warmer temperatures. But as more and more mountain glaciers disappear, their contribution will begin to diminish because less ice is left to melt. The Greenland Ice Sheet, which contains a much larger volume of ice, will continue to contribute an increasing amount of water to sea level rise. The Antarctic Ice Sheet’s role remains the least certain, but Antarctica has the greatest potential impact on future rates of sea level change because it contains the largest volume of ice on Earth.