A study has warned that sea levels could rise as high as 17 feet due to melting Antarctic ice. This is because of current global warming trends.

  • Researchers led from Hokkaido University modelled the fate of the Antarctic ice
  • They built on models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  • Substantial sea-level rise may render coastal areas uninhabitable. 
  • Sea level rise could be limited if emission can be reduced.

When Busted sang about having been to the year 3000 — where ‘not much has changed, but they lived underwater’ — who’d have suspected it might be prophetic?

If the Antarctic Ice Sheet continues to melt, the sea level could rise as high as 17 feet in the next millennium.

This is the warning of a team of researchers led from Hokkaido University, who modelled the fate of the Antarctic ice sheet beyond the 21st century. 

The team stated that although the “business as usual” forecast looks bad, it could be avoided if greenhouse gases are reduced, which would keep sea level rise below one foot.

Without costly and extensive coastal protection, substantial sea level rise may make large areas of coastal land that are densely populated uninhabitable.

Sea levels may rise by as much as a whopping 17 feet by the millennium's end if the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt under current global warming trends. Pictured: Antarctica

The sea level could rise up to 17ft by the end of the millennium if Antarctica’s ice sheets continue to melt due global warming. Photograph: Antarctica


In their study, Dr Chambers and his colleagues built on models previously consulted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in their recent Sixth Assessment Report.

The United Nations created this organization to increase our understanding of the human-driven effects on climate change. It also provides objective and complete scientific information about the topic.

However, it does not conduct original research or monitor the progress of climate change — but rather conducts a periodic, systematic and thorough review of existing scientific literature in relevant fields.

“This paper by Christopher Chambers, a Japanese meteorologist and author of the study on Antarctic climate change,” said Christopher Chambers from Japan’s Hokkaido University.

‘The most severe consequences — multi-meter contribution to sea-level rise — will likely only be seen later,’ he added.

“Future work will involve basing simulations upon more realistic futureclimate scenarios and using other ice sheet models to model them.

In their study, Dr Chambers and colleagues build upon existing research — the so-called ‘Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project for the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6’, or ‘ISMIP6’ for short.

The international project, which was aptly named “The International Project”, used the most recent climate models to predict the effects of global warming on Antarctica’s and Greenland’s ice sheets at the end of this century.

The results — which informed the recent Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — found that, under unabated warming, the Antarctic will contribute some 3–12 inches (8–30 cm) to sea level rise.

This figure, however, could be curbed to just 0–1 inches (0–3 cm) in scenario where greenhouse gas emissions were significantly reduced.

The researchers extended ISMIP6’s projections further into the future — considering both unabated warming and reduced emissions trajectories — using an ice sheet model known as ‘Simulation Code for Polythermal Ice Sheets (SICOPOLIS).

Up until the year 2100, the simulation ran exactly the same as in the original ISMIP6 experiments — beyond which, the team assumed that the late 21st-century climatic conditions remained constant, so no further climate trend was applied.

From the models’ outputs, the team focussed on the total mass change of the southern continent’s ice sheets and regional changes in East and West Antarctica and on the Antarctic Peninsula — as well as the contributors to such.

The researchers extended ISMIP6's projections further into the future — considering both unabated warming and reduced emissions trajectories — using an ice sheet model known as 'Simulation Code for Polythermal Ice Sheets (SICOPOLIS). Pictured: simulated mass loss of the Antarctic ice sheet from 1990 until 3000 expressed as sea-level contribution

The researchers extended ISMIP6’s projections further into the future — considering both unabated warming and reduced emissions trajectories — using an ice sheet model known as ‘Simulation Code for Polythermal Ice Sheets (SICOPOLIS). The sea-level contribution of the Antarctic ice sheets to the simulated mass loss is shown in this picture.

By the year 3000, sea levels could rise by as much as 4.9–17.7 feet (1.5–5.4 metres) under current warming trends — resulting in the largest part from the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet.

Could emissions be curbed, however, the researchers’ models suggest that sea level rise could be constrained to just 0.4–1 feet (0.13–0.32 metres).

The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet would be made possible, the team noted, by the fact that it is grounded on a bed that is mostly below sea level.

Journal of Glaciology has published all findings.


Global sea levels could rise as much as 10ft (3 metres) if the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica collapses. 

Sea level rises are threatening cities in Shanghai, London, Florida, Bangladesh and entire countries like the Maldives. 

For example, in the UK, an increase of 6.7ft (2 meters) or greater could cause some areas like Hull, Peterborough and Portsmouth to become submerged.

Major cities like New York City and Sydney could be submerged by the collapse of glaciers, which can occur over many decades.

Particularly hard-hit areas would include parts of New Orleans, Houston, and Miami to the south.

The union of concerned scientists conducted a 2014 survey that examined 52 indicators for sea level in US communities.

Based on the current data, it found that tidal flooding is likely to increase dramatically in several East Coast and Gulf Coast areas.

Results showed that these communities will see a sharp increase in the frequency and severity of tidal flooding over the coming decades.

If moderate sea level rise is assumed, then more than half the 52 communities being studied could experience at most 24 tidal surges each year by 2030. 20 of these communities may experience a triple or greater in the number and severity of tidal flood events.

Flood frequency is likely to increase most on the mid-Atlantic Coast. Annapolis, Maryland, Washington, DC, can anticipate more than 150 annual tidal flooding events. Several locations in New Jersey may see as many 80-foot tidal flooding events.

According to results of a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, November 2016, a 2 m (6.5 ft!) rise in the UK would result in large areas of Kent being almost submerged.

Other areas on the south coast, such as Portsmouth, Cambridge, and Peterborough will also be affected.

Intense flooding would affect cities and towns located around the Humber Estuary (Hull, Scunthorpe, Grimsby).