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Scientists play down rising seas

MANCHESTER scientists studying global warming are predicting a much lower rise in sea levels than previously feared.

Researchers say melting glaciers and ice caps will cause just a 0.1m rise in global sea levels by 2100 – less than half the increase of several earlier predictions.

But they show that melting of glacial and mountain areas is accelerating fast leading to flooding and land slides in mountainous regions such as Nepal.

Dr Sarah Raper, a climatologist from MMU's Centre for Aviation Transport and the Environment, said: “Our research predicts a relatively low sea-level rise from glaciers and icecaps, compared with earlier work, but the local effect of accelerated glacier melt is going to be very important and may already be increasing catastrophic damage in the form of glacier lake outbursts in high mountain regions.”

Ice-caps "larger"

The Manchester research, published in the scientific journal Nature, suggests that the slow-down or lower estimate, is due to a greater amount of the world’s ice being located at the ice-caps – around ½ - which because it is slower melting than glaciers, is contributing less water flow into the oceans.

Dr Raper and Dr Roger Braithwaite, a geographer at Manchester University, projected expected future climate statistics to a sophisticated model of glacier mass and volume which accounts for a host of variables including glacier shrinkage.

Dr Braithwaite said: “Our analysis should not been seen as diminishing the importance of sea level rise since glaciers and icecaps are only one of the contributors."

Glacier and icecap melt is responsible for roughly a third of sea level rise, the main cause being simple water expansion due to temperature rise, known as thermal expansion.

Temperature research

Dr Raper’s earlier work has looked at the rate of temperature rises caused by emissions and greenhouse gases, see www.news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1447530.stm Sarah is a current author for climate change reporting with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which reports in 2006.

The paper is: Low sea level rise projections from mountain glaciers and icecaps under global warming Nature, 19 January 2006

For more information, contact Dr Sarah Raper, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Air Transport and the Environment, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK s.raper@mmu.ac.uk 0161 247 1596

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