New Study, Blog on Predicting Future Sea Level Rise


May 20, 2019

News Type

Press Release

Future sea level rise poses serious threats to the viability of coastal communities but is challenging to project using deterministic modeling approaches.

Now, in a new study posted today by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the United States of America, an international team of experts provide research on ways to predict sea level rise (SLR) utilizing Structured Expert Judgment, or SEJ.

The authors are Jonathan L. Bamber, University of Bristol; Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton University; Robert Kopp, Rutgers University; Willy Aspinall, University of Bristol, and Roger Cooke, Resources for the Future (RFF). Their paper is, "Ice Sheet Contributions to Future Sea-Level Rise from Structured Expert Judgement."

Lead author Dr. Bamber said: “SEJ provides a formal approach for estimating uncertain quantities based on current scientific understanding and can be useful for estimating quantities that are difficult to model.”

Using SEJ, the international team of scientists asked 22 ice sheet experts to estimate plausible ranges for future sea level rise due to the projected melting of each of the Greenland, West Antarctic, and East Antarctic ice sheets under low and high future global temperature rise scenarios.

Dr. Bamber said: “Projections of total global SLR using this method yielded a small but meaningful probability of SLR exceeding two meters by the year 2100 under the high temperature scenario, roughly equivalent to ‘business as usual,’ well above the ‘likely’ upper limit presented in the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”

In his new blog posted today, Dr. Cooke further explains that validation is the key feature of SEJ: Although projections of future SLR cannot be validated, the ability of experts to quantify uncertainty from their field of expertise can be, and has been, statistically validated. This contrasts with the BOGSAT method (bunch of guys/gals sitting around a table) from the 1960s that is still current in some quarters.

Read the blog here. Read the full study here.

Resources for the Future (RFF) is an independent, nonprofit research institution in Washington, DC. Its mission is to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement. RFF is committed to being the most widely trusted source of research insights and policy solutions leading to a healthy environment and a thriving economy.

Unless otherwise stated, the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and may differ from those of other RFF experts, its officers, or its directors. RFF does not take positions on specific legislative proposals.

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