Sea level rise under climate change: modelling the Pliocene warm period for improved projections of the future

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Geography


Sea level change (SLC) is one of the most significant hazards associated with climate
change. The largest and most uncertain contribution to SLC in the coming centuries is
melting from the Antarctic ice sheet (AIS). To characterise this uncertainty requires robust
probabilistic simulations of the AIS under climate change.

This study will use numerical ice sheet modelling (BISICLES) and statistical modelling
(Gaussian Process Emulation (GPE)) to project AIS mass loss over to 2300. It will use an
'ensemble' approach sample uncertainty in factors governing AIS dynamics and generate
probabilistic projections of its contribution to SLC.

To evaluate the success of BISICLES under warm climate conditions, the ice sheet will be
simulated for a past period with atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations similar to
present (~350-400 ppm) but higher global mean temperatures (~3-4 oC above
preindustrial) and much higher sea levels (10-30m above modern): the mid-Pliocene warm
period (mPWP), around 3Ma.

These will be compared with reconstructions of palaeo-sea level to identify which model
configurations most realistically simulate the AIS- and should be given greatest weight in the
future projections. By using this approach, the project proposed here will provide more
robust probabilistic projections of the multi-centennial AIS contribution to SLC.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/W503137/1 03/03/2021 31/03/2022
1917563 Studentship NE/W503137/1 01/10/2017 31/03/2022 James O'Neill
Description Talk on my research and discussion on policy implications of uncertainty in sea level rise projections 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I gave a 20 minute presentation on modelling the Antarctic ice sheet contribution to sea level rise in warmer than modern climates, it's challenges, and how uncertainties in processes that contribute to sea level change could influence sea level response to anthropogenic warming in terms of rate and magnitude. I then chaired a discussion, inviting comment and debate from the audience which included academic peers, policy professionals and members of the general public. We discussed barriers to communicating uncertainties in science, how non-specialists deal with uncertainty in their every day lives and how this could influence successful communication of uncertain sea level science, and examples of projects which have successfully incorporated uncertain future sea level rise into their design and planning.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018