Sea-level projections representing the deeply uncertain contribution of the West Antarctic ice sheet

A. M. R. Bakker, T. E. Wong, K. L. Ruckert, and K. Keller

Nature Scientific Reports (20 June 2017)

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-04134-5

There is a growing awareness that uncertainties surrounding future sea-level projections may be much larger than typically perceived. Recently published projections appear widely divergent and highly sensitive to non-trivial model choices. Moreover, the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS) may be much less stable than previous believed, enabling a rapid disintegration. Here, we present a set of probabilistic sea-level projections that approximates the deeply uncertain WAIS contributions. The projections aim to inform robust decisions by clarifying the sensitivity to non-trivial or controversial assumptions. We show that the deeply uncertain WAIS contribution can dominate other uncertainties within decades. These deep uncertainties call for the development of robust adaptive strategies. These decision-making needs, in turn, require mission-oriented basic science, for example about potential signposts and the maximum rate of WAIS-induced sea-level changes.

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