Forecasting the future knowing the past: sea level was 16 meters higher than the current 3 million years ago

The Earth is warming and, as a result of the melting of ice sheets, such as those covering Greenland and Antarctica, the sea level will increase 3 millimeters each year, on average.

However, more than 3 million years ago, when the Earth was between 2ºC and 3ºC warmer than in the pre-industrial era, the sea level was up to 16 meters higher than the current one. Knowing this data, we can predict what awaits us.


A group of researchers, from the University of South Florida, the University of New Mexico, the University of the Balearic Islands and the University of Columbia, have analyzed the deposits of the Cave of Artà, in the Mallorca Island, in the western Mediterranean Sea, as it served as an objective for future studies of ice sheet stability, calibrations of the ice sheet model and projections of future sea level rise.

A key interval of particular interest during the Pliocene is half of the warm Piacian period. Then, the Earth's atmospheric CO2 was as high as it is today, providing important clues about what the future holds in the face of current anthropogenic warming. This means that even if atmospheric CO2 stabilizes around current levels, the global average sea level would probably increase at least to that level, that is, up to 16.2 meters. (with an uncertainty range of 5.6 to 19.2 meters) above the current level.

The authors acknowledge that this rise in sea level would not occur overnight, but that it would take hundreds of thousands of years to melt such large amounts of ice.

Video: How Will Earth Change If All the Ice Melts? (November 2019).