AUSTIN, Texas—More than 30 of the world’s leading polar ice experts will meet at The University of Texas at Austin March 26-28 to seek greater scientific consensus on one of the world’s major uncertainties concerning future sea-level rise, the fate of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
The scientists will issue a statement with their conclusions at 1:30 p.m. March 28 followed by a panel from 3-5 p.m. in Welch Hall on the university campus.
The ice sheet contains the potential to raise global sea level by several meters and increase the risk of flooding for tens to hundreds of millions of people living in the world’s coastal regions.
In the recent "Summary for Policymakers" from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientists opted not to factor the West Antarctic Ice Sheet into their projections of sea-level rise, acknowledging they needed greater consensus on the subject.
The West Antarctic Links to Sea-level Estimation Initiative (WALSE) was conceived to foster greater consensus. The effort unites polar ice experts from the United States and United Kingdom, with funding from Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the British Consulate-General Houston and the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin, and further support from the British Antarctic Survey.
The first two days of the meeting will be private with scientists combining their collective knowledge and latest research on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, focusing in particular on the Amundsen Sea embayment, which represents one third of the ice sheet and its most rapidly changing drainage basin.
Scientists have made major advances since they completed a risk estimation for the West Antarctic Ice Sheet in 2001. Satellite measurements have shown that across the Amundsen Sea embayment the ice is thinning at a rate contributing significantly to global sea-level rise. Scientists have observed glacier acceleration, inland migration of the contact point between glaciers and the ocean, and thinning of the floating ice shelves that fringe the ice sheet. These changes have occurred in the area glaciologists consider the ice to be most vulnerable, where rapid deglaciation is most likely.
A public day will conclude the meeting March 28 with scientists making presentations to the media and public on their collective opinions regarding the likely causes of change in the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica, its projected impact on future sea-level rise and the implications for policy makers.
This workshop is an International Polar Year activity.
A list of invited participants can be found online.
Editors: Journalists are invited to attend the public events March 28 and may contact J.B. Bird, 512-232-9623, to request interviews with individual scientists.
For more information contact: J.B. Bird, Jackson School of Geosciences, 512-232-9623.