Sea level is rising at 0.2m per century. New research suggests it could be 3.0m per century by the end of this century.
The Earth is presently in an interglacial period which began about 10,000 years ago. But greenhouse gas emissions over the past 200 years have caused climate changes that are faster and more extreme than experienced during the last interglacial. This means past rates of sea level rise provide only low-end predictions of what might happen in future.
We examined data from the last interglacial, which occurred 125,000 to 118,000 years ago. Temperatures were up to 1℃ higher than today - similar to those projected for the near future.
Our research reveals that ice melt in the last interglacial period caused global seas to rise about 10 metres above the present level. The ice melted first in Antarctica, then a few thousand years later in Greenland.
Sea levels rose at up to 3 metres per century, far exceeding the roughly 0.3-metre rise observed over the past 150 years.