Ice Sheets, Glaciers, and Sea Level

Ian Alison, William Colgan, Matt King, Frank Paul

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in bookResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Within the past 125,000. years, variations in Earth's climate have resulted in global sea levels fluctuating from 130 to 140. m lower than present day to 6 to 9. m higher. Presently, global mean sea level is rising at its fastest rate in the past 6,000. years (~3. mm/year). In this chapter, we discuss both the causes and implications of sea-level rise from the perspective of a cryospheric hazard. We also survey the best estimates of sea-level rise and cryospheric mass change from a variety of monitoring techniques. The transfer of terrestrial ice into the sea has contributed about 50 percent of the sea-level rise since 1993, and probably exceeded the combined sea-level changes due to thermal expansion, changes in terrestrial water storage, and changes in ocean basin size since 2003. This cryospheric contribution to sea-level rise is approximately equally split between the combined ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, and the global population of about 200,000 glaciers. The societal effects of sea-level rise will be highly varied throughout the world, with some locations experiencing relatve sea-level drop, whereas others experience a relative sea-level rise several times the global mean. Perhaps counter-intuitively, the sea-level rise due to terrestrial ice loss will be most substantial in areas furthest from the source of melting ice. Although this cryospheric hazard will unfold over a much longer time scale than many of the other hazards discussed in this volume, the ramifications of sea-level rise will likely be more widespread and profound. Some implications discussed here include coastal inundation, increased coastal flood frequency and groundwater salinization.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSnow and Ice-related hazards, risks and disasters
EditorsJohn F. Shroder, Wilfried Haeberli, Colin Whiteman
Number of pages35
ISBN (Print)978-0-12-394849-6
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

NameHazards and Disasters Series
PublisherAcademic Press


  • Antarctic ice sheet
  • Glaciers
  • Greenland ice sheet
  • Sea-level rise

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate


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