Using inter-glacials to assess future sea-level scenarios (iGlass)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Ocean and Earth Science

Abstract

The vulnerability of extensive near-coastal habitation, infrastructure, and trade makes global sea-level rise a major global concern for society. The UK coastline, for example, has ~£150 billion of assets at risk from coastal flooding, of which with £75 billion in London alone. Consequently, most nations have developed/ implemented protection plans, which commonly use ranges of sea-level rise estimates from global warming scenarios such as those published by IPCC, supplemented by worst-case values from limited geological studies. UKCP09 provides the most up-to-date guidance on UK sea-level rise scenarios and includes a low probability, high impact range for maximum UK sea level rise for use in contingency planning and in considerations regarding the limits to potential adaptation (the H++ scenario). UKCP09 emphasises that the H++ scenario is unlikely for the next century, but it does introduce significant concerns when planning for longer-term future sea-level rise. Currently, the range for H++ is set to 0.9-1.9 m of rise by the end of the 21st century. This range of uncertainty is large (with vast planning and financial implications), and - more critically - it has no robust statistical basis. It is important, therefore, to better understand the processes controlling the maximum sea-level rise estimate for the future on these time-scales. This forms the overarching motivation for the consortium project proposed here. iGlass is a broad-ranging interdisciplinary project that will integrate field data and modelling, in order to study the response of ice volume/sea level to different climate states during the last five interglacials, which include times with significantly higher sea level than the present. This will identify the likelihood of reduced ice cover over Greenland and West Antarctica, an important constraint on future sea-level projections. A key outcome will be to place sound limits on the likely ice-volume contribution to maximum sea-level rise estimas for the future. Our project is guided by three key questions: Q1. What do palaeo-sea level positions reveal about the global ice-volume/sea-level changes during a range of different interglacial climate states? Q2. What were the rates of sea-level rise in past interglacials, and to what extent are these relevant for future change, given the different climate forcing? Q3. Under a range of given (IPCC) climate projection scenarios, what are the projected limits to maximum sea-level rise over the next few centuries when accounting for ice-sheet contributions? The research will directly inform decision-making processes regarding flood risk management in the UK and abroad. In this respect, the project benefits from the close co-operation with scientists and practitioners in the UK Environment Agency, UKCIP, the UK insurance industry, as well as the wider global academic and user communities.

Publications

10 25 50

publication icon
Wainer K (2017) Speleothem evidence for MIS 5c and 5a sea level above modern level at Bermuda in Earth and Planetary Science Letters

publication icon
Rowe M (2014) Anomalous MIS 7 sea level recorded on Bermuda in Quaternary Science Reviews

publication icon
Rohling EJ (2013) A geological perspective on potential future sea-level rise. in Scientific reports

publication icon
PALAEOSENS Project Members (2012) Making sense of palaeoclimate sensitivity. in Nature

publication icon
Medina-Elizalde M (2013) A global compilation of coral sea-level benchmarks: Implications and new challenges in Earth and Planetary Science Letters

publication icon
Jevrejeva S (2014) Upper limit for sea level projections by 2100 in Environmental Research Letters

publication icon
Jevrejeva S (2014) Trends and acceleration in global and regional sea levels since 1807 in Global and Planetary Change

publication icon
Grant KM (2014) Sea-level variability over five glacial cycles. in Nature communications

publication icon
Foster GL (2013) Relationship between sea level and climate forcing by CO2 on geological timescales. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

publication icon
Dangendorf S (2014) Mean sea level variability in the North Sea: Processes and implications in Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans

 
Description There have been important advances about the sea-level variability in geological periods that are relatively similar to the present, and spin-off that has helped a better understanding of climate sensitivity. Projections of sea-level change into the future have also been obtained from the project. A final paper on the latter is almost completed.
Exploitation Route The climate sensitivity and projections of sea level change into the future are used among researchers studying anthropogenic climate change, including IPCC-AR5. Additionally, low probability-high impact scenarios are of value to the policy, coastal management, engineering, energy (e.g. nuclear) and reinsurance sectors for long-term/extreme scenario planning purposes.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Energy,Environment

URL http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/
 
Description The outcome from the project are being used in the reassessment of the H++ extreme sea-level scenario in the UK
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Environment
Impact Types Societal

 
Description IPCC AR5 (expert reviewer and contributing author)
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in advisory committee
URL http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/
 
Description Australian Laureate Fellowship
Amount $3,129,070 (AUD)
Funding ID FL120100050 
Organisation Australian Research Council 
Sector Public
Country Australia
Start 03/2013 
End 02/2018
 
Title Coral database 
Description Synthesis and standardization of U-series dated coral sea level indicators 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact none to date - use within the sea level, glacio-isostatic and climate communities 
URL http://www.highstand.org/erohling/ejrhome.htm
 
Title Penultimate Glacial Maximum Ice Margins 
Description This is a compilation of glacio-morphological mapping and dating of the penultimate glaciation in Eurasia and North America. We only include sites where the authors specifically correlate glacial sediments or features to the PGM, where this is either identified as MIS 6 or Saalian/Illinoian glacial episodes. We include any dating constraints (OSL, U-series, tephra or palaeomagnetic) of PGM glacial deposits. Note we make no assessment as to the reliability of the ages. Relative age control for glacial sediments has been achieved using the stratigraphic position of the glacial deposits relative to interglacial deposits (e.g., U-series dated peats), tephra (e.g., the Old Crow tephra in North America provides an upper age limit for underlying glacial deposits) and palaeomagnetic excursions. Supplement to: Rohling*, Hibbert*, Williams* et al., 2017. Differences between the last two glacial maxima and implications for ice-sheet, d18O, and sea-level reconstructions. Quaternary Science Reviewshttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2017.09.009 (* = joint first authors) 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This collation of penultimate glacial glaciogenic sediments, or other dated deposits, under pins the glacio-isostatic experiments in Rohling et al., 2017 
URL https://figshare.com/articles/Penultimate_Glacial_Maximum_Ice_Margins/5131963/1
 
Description ACSA 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk and discussion sessions at Australian Curriculum devilment committee for Highschools, on environmental sustainability and climate change.

Advice to Highschool curriculum development on potential Oceans and Climate topic, state of South Australia
Multiple further requests for information
Talks at Highschool in Canberra
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Australian Broadcasting telephone interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact telephone interview following the publication of Marino et al., 2015
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.highstand.org/erohling/Rohling-papers/Ice%20sheet%20collapse%20135,000%20years%20ago%20to...
 
Description BBC (Wales) interview (Stanford) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact radio interview following publication of Marino et al., 2015
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.highstand.org/erohling/Rohling-papers/Stanford-BBC-good-evening-Wales-10june2015.mp3
 
Description Channel 9 News 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Sparked some enquiries afterward

-
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.highstand.org/erohling/Rohling-papers/Rising%20sea%20levels.mp4
 
Description Earth Magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact -
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
URL http://www.earthmagazine.org/article/new-climate-record-challenges-ideas-about-recent-glaciations
 
Description Hobart Music for a warming World event, opening seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was asked to open the week-long event in Hobart, Tasmania, titled: "music for a warming world", with a 1 hr address on the basics of climate change, and how we may try to fix the problem.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.climatetasmania.org/wp-content/uploads/MWW_Tas_-Events_Flyer.pdf
 
Description New Zealand Hearald article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact New Zealand Hearld article resulting for the press release associated with Marino et al., 2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.highstand.org/erohling/Rohling-papers/What%20causes%20ancient%20oceans%20to%20rise%3F%20-...
 
Description Public seminar Mt Stromlo 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public talk on climate and sea-level change awareness, explaining what is happening, how we know this, and what the future may bring
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Radio Ecoshock interview, Canada (20 minutes) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Enquiries (international) with some further questions

Changes in views expressed to me by some of the audience
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
URL http://www.ecoshock.net/downloads/ES_Rohling.mp3
 
Description Radio New zealand 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Sparked discussion afterward

Enquiries from listeners for more information
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
URL http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/nights/audio/2596497/starting-an-ice-age
 
Description Science Daily article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Science Daily article resulting from press release associated with Marino et al., 2015
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.highstand.org/erohling/Rohling-papers/Dramatic%20ice%20sheet%20collapse%20135%20thousand%...
 
Description The Australian 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Participation to discussion piece on climate change

-
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
URL http://www.highstand.org/erohling/Rohling-papers/No-sure-bets-in-the-climate-debate%7CThe_Australian...
 
Description The Conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Feedback comments

Enquiries for further information and some discussion
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
URL https://theconversation.com/why-ice-sheets-will-keep-melting-for-centuries-to-come-32171
 
Description The Conversation - August'16 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In this article I outline for a broad, general audience how emissions have already exceeded the total allowed for staying within the Paris climate targets. The Conversation has a global readership among professions and policy makers.
Rohling, E.J., Without a longer-term view, the Paris Agreement will lock in warming for centuries. The Conversation, August 24, 2016.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://theconversation.com/without-a-longer-term-view-the-paris-agreement-will-lock-in-warming-for-...
 
Description stakeholder event (coastal managers, engineers etc) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact improved understanding (both scientists and invited stakeholders - coastal managers, Environment Agency, Natural England, Eon etc.) around issues of extreme sea level change (i.e. the H++ scenario). A series of short presentations was followed by lively and informed group discussions.

raised awareness of the H++ scenario amongst invited stakeholders: how derived; factors influencing the inputs an outputs; and how work undertaken by the iGlass Consortium could inform future updates of the scenario. Useful discussions on the needs and norms of information exchange for coastal managers, planners etc. (timescales, spatial scale, rates and magnitudes of sea level change).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014