Climate change and melting ice caps could spark extreme waves in the Arctic up to 19 feet high by the end of the century, experts warn
- Researchers used both historic and climate simulations for this study
- They gathered five sets of simulations of oceanic and atmospheric condition
- The team found 20 year extreme waves could happen once every two years
- These waves could reach maximum heights of more than 19 feet
- Flooding could also increase by a factor of four to 10 by the end of the century
Extreme waves in the Arctic typically occur every 20 years, but as climate change continues to plague the region these events could happen every two to five years, a new study reveals.
Much of this area is frozen for a majority of the year, but rising temperatures have increased periods of open water that could result in catastrophic waves.
Using computer models, researchers found the area hit the hardest was in the Greenland Sea, which could experience maximum annual wave heights of more than 19 feet.
The team also warns coastal flooding might increase by a factor of four to 10 by the end of this century.
Extreme waves in the Arctic typically occur every 20 years, but as climate change continues to plague the region these events could happen every two to five years, a new study reveals. Much of this area is frozen for a majority of the year, but rising temperatures have increased periods of open water that could result in catastrophic waves
Mercè Casas-Prat, a research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) Climate Research Division and the lead author of the new study, said: ‘It increases the risk of flooding and erosion. It increases drastically almost everywhere.’
‘This can have a direct impact to the communities that live close to the shoreline.’
The Arctic, the northernmost regions on Earth, have been hit hard with climate change over the years.
Most recently, areas have seen record high temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The team also warns coastal flooding might increase by a factor of four to 10 by the end of this century. All of which is caused by open waters and melting ice caps
Casa-Prate noted that some areas are experiencing warming three times higher than the rest of the globe.
And the warm weather has started thawing the once frozen solid waters.
Casa-Prate and her co-author Xiaolan Wang, also with the ECCC, set out to understand how global warming might impact extreme ocean surface waves in the Arctic.
The team received reports that some of the northern regions have observed an uptick in erosion, along with an increase in structural damage due to extreme waves.
The Arctic, the northernmost regions on Earth, have been hit hard with climate change over the years. Most recently, areas have seen record high temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit
For the study, the team collected five sets of multi-model simulations of oceanic and atmospheric conditions, such as surface winds that generated waves, and sea ice.
Then they ran simulations of wave conditions for two periods that are historical (1979 to 2005) and future predictions from 2081 to 2100.
Using the ensemble of multi-model simulations, the team was able to assess the uncertainty in the changes in the extreme Arctic waves due to the uncertainty present in the five climate models used.
Wave height increase was the most notable finding from the simulations and the hardest hit areas were along the Greenland Sea that sits between Greenland and Norway.
The study found maximum annual wave heights there could increase by as much as 19.7 feet.
The models do not provide much weight behind how much the waves might change, but Casa-Prat said she is confident that there will be an increase.
And she and her co-author suggest that by the end of the century, the timing of the highest waves may also change.
‘At the end of the century, the maximum will on average come later in the year and also be more extreme,’ Casas-Prat said.
Judah Cohen, a climatologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was not involved in Casas-Prat’s research, said these waves could be particularly devastating to coastal areas that have never previously experienced open water.
‘We are already seeing these increased risks along Arctic coastlines with damage to coastline structures that previously were never damaged,’ he said.
‘As more and more ice melts and more of the Arctic ocean surface becomes exposed to the wind, waves will increase in height because wave height is dependent on the distance the wind blows over open waters.’
SEA LEVELS COULD RISE BY UP TO 4 FEET BY THE YEAR 2300
Global sea levels could rise as much as 1.2 metres (4 feet) by 2300 even if we meet the 2015 Paris climate goals, scientists have warned.
The long-term change will be driven by a thaw of ice from Greenland to Antarctica that is set to re-draw global coastlines.
Sea level rise threatens cities from Shanghai to London, to low-lying swathes of Florida or Bangladesh, and to entire nations such as the Maldives.
It is vital that we curb emissions as soon as possible to avoid an even greater rise, a German-led team of researchers said in a new report.
By 2300, the report projected that sea levels would gain by 0.7-1.2 metres, even if almost 200 nations fully meet goals under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Targets set by the accords include cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero in the second half of this century.
Ocean levels will rise inexorably because heat-trapping industrial gases already emitted will linger in the atmosphere, melting more ice, it said.
In addition, water naturally expands as it warms above four degrees Celsius (39.2°F).
Every five years of delay beyond 2020 in peaking global emissions would mean an extra 20 centimetres (8 inches) of sea level rise by 2300.
‘Sea level is often communicated as a really slow process that you can’t do much about … but the next 30 years really matter,’ lead author Dr Matthias Mengel, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in Potsdam, Germany, told Reuters.
None of the nearly 200 governments to sign the Paris Accords are on track to meet its pledges.