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March 25th, 2006

Earth’s past suggests polar melting may raise sea level sooner than expected

Gifford Miller was a member of two research teams that combined paleoclimate evidence from the Last Interglacial period with climate and ice sheet modeling to infer that Earth's warming temperatures are on track to melt the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets sooner than previously thought and ultimately lead to a global sea level rise of at least 20 feet. If the current warming trends continue, by 2100 the Earth will likely be at least 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than present, with the Arctic at least as warm as it was nearly 130,000 years ago. At that time, significant portions of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets melted, resulting in a sea level about 20 feet (six meters) higher than present day. These studies are the first to link Arctic and Antarctic melting during the Last Interglaciation, 129,000 to 116,000 years ago.

The results were published in two adjacent papers in the 24 March 2006 issue of Science.

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