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The melting of floating ice raises the ocean level

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SUMMARY

It is shown that the melting of ice floating on the ocean will introduce a volume of water about 2.6 per cent greater than that of the originally displaced sea water. The melting of floating ice in a global warming will cause the ocean to rise. If all the extant sea ice and floating shelf ice melted, the global sea level would rise about 4 cm. The sliding of grounded ice into the sea, however, produces a mean water level rise in two parts; some of the rise is delayed. The first part, while the ice floats, is equal to the volume of displaced sea water. The second part, equal to 2.6 per cent of the first, is contributed as it melts. These effects result from the difference in volume of equal weights of fresh and salt water. This component of sea rise is apparently unrecognized in the literature to date, although it can be interpreted as a form of halosteric sea level change by regarding the displaced salt water and the meltwater (even before melting) as a unit. Although salinity changes are known to affect sea level, all existing analyses omit our calculated volume change. We present a protocol that can be used to calculate global sea level rise on the basis of the addition of meltwater from grounded and floating ice; of course thermosteric volume change must be added.
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Keywords: density; laboratory measurement; oceans; present-day ice melting; sea level change

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: New Mexico Institute of Technology, Department of Chemistry, Socorro, NM 87801, USA

Publication date: 01 July 2007

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