How high can the sea level rise?

04.10.2017

If we manage to put a stop to global warming, the sea level will still continue to rise for centuries. This fact was stressed by the international participants in the workshop “High-End Sea Level Rise,” which was held at the CEN in mid-September. A rise of between 30 and 100 centimeters by 2100, as predicted in the IPCC’s latest Assessment Report, remains realistic.

The maxmimum rise of the sea level is not yet determined.

However, the IPCC’s report doesn’t provide any information on how much the sea level could rise by in total. The CEN’s researchers will now intensively explore that question and develop potential scenarios for the maximum rise (“High-End”). This type of data will be essential to coastal regions and islands, as it will help them prepare for the long-term changes to come. At the same time, it can contribute to the IPCC’s next Assessment Report.

Accordingly, experts from a broad range of disciplines, from oceanography and glaciology to coastal protection, came together in Hamburg for the workshop. They discussed different methods for arriving at reliable estimates of the maximum rise – all of which depend on how much greenhouse gas is emitted in the future. At the same time, they worked to prepare their findings in a format that best meets the needs of political decision-makers and the general public.

The rising sea level is an unavoidable effect of climate change. Yet even if we assume a specific level of greenhouse gas emissions, we still can’t say for certain how much the sea level will rise by the end of the century. For one thing, it is unclear how much difference the loss of land ice in the Antarctic will make. In addition, less likely but extremely high-risk scenarios also have to be kept in mind so as to develop effective coastal management strategies.

The workshop was arranged by the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and the DFG Priority Program “SeaLevel” and spearheaded by Prof. Detlef Stammer at the CEN.