Melting Ice Added 11 Millimeters to Seas Over Two Decades

Oceans worldwide rose by an average of about 11 millimeters (0.43 inches) from 1992 to 2011 as ice sheets near both poles melted, according to an article to be published tomorrow in the journal Science.

Researchers evaluated multiple sets of satellite data from the past 20 years to measure the effect of melting ice near the Earth’s poles, said Ian Joughin, a professor at the University of Washington and an author of the article.

The results paint a more accurate picture of climate change than studies based on a single set of satellite data, he said during a conference call yesterday. That information may aid efforts to hammer out a treaty as representatives from more than 190 nations gather in Doha for two weeks of United Nations climate talks, the researchers said.

“We have a 20-year record of ice-sheet mass balance, and we’re worried about what’s going to happen over the next 100 years,” Joughin said.

As the Earth heads for its ninth-hottest year, the researchers also found ice in Greenland is melting about five times faster than in the 1990s and that the east and west coasts of the U.S. and some other low-lying areas may have experienced even larger increases in sea levels.

While the researchers can’t predict exactly how much more the seas may rise or how quickly, “we can see that the trend is toward increases,” Joughin said. “And that’s something we do need to worry about.”

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at

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