Cities face catastrophic flooding if Antarctic ice melts

UNSW's Scientia Professor Matthew England has warned that the world's coastal cities face the impact of massive sea level rise if Antarctic ice melts due to global warming.

Speaking at the joint 25th AMOS National Conference and 12th International Conference for Southern Hemisphere Meteorology and Oceanography at UNSW this week, Professor England said the melting of Antarctic ice poses one of the greatest threats to the modern world.

“Antarctica locks up more than 50 metres of global sea-level, and we know from past climate records that when the earth gets hot enough all of this ice can melt into the oceans,” says Scientia Professor England, of the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science.

“We can now expect many metres of sea-level rise if we do nothing to limit atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. This will see virtually all of the world's coastal cities highly exposed to this threat.”

Professor England, whose research focuses on the ocean’s effect on Antarctic ice, says greater efforts are needed to observe, monitor, and understand this fragile part of the Earth's climate system.

"We are only just now discovering some of the ways in which the oceans can melt Antarctica's expansive ice shelves,” he says. “This region of the world is remote, hard to get to, and nearly impossible to measure long-term.”

The joint conference is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest meeting of meteorologists, oceanographers and climate scientists, bringing together around 600 delegates from 35 different countries to share the latest in the weather, climate and oceans sciences.

Subscribe to The Climate Leadership Report

Interested in Local Government news and events?  

Click here to view the Local Government Report.