S.T. Lee Lecture 2016

A profile image of Eric Rignot at St. Pertersburg.

Future sea-level rise from warming of the polar ice sheets

Professor Eric J.M. Rignot, 14 February 2017

Donald Bren Professor of Earth System Science, School of Physical Sciences, University of California, Irvine
Senior Research Scientist/Joint Faculty Appointee at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Synopsis of lecture

The ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are contributing faster, sooner and more significantly than expected to global sea-level rise. Predicting the future rates of ice sheet mass loss with deterministic models remains a formidable challenge. Observations and physics principles suggest sea-level rise of more than 1 metre by 2100, and geological information from the Last Interglacial period (125,000 years ago) suggest a potential for a 6–9 metre sea-level rise with 1–2° C warming above pre-industrial levels.

Professor Eric Rignot will review the current state of knowledge of ice sheet mass balance, and its potential to raise global sea level by many metres. He will address the question, “Have some of the marine-based sectors already passed a point of no return, and if so, what is the magnitude of sea-level rise are we committed to?”. He will also explore the emission mitigation pathways that can limit the amount of sea-level rise by the end of the century and beyond.

Eric Rignot

Professor Eric J.M. Rignot is the Donald Bren Professor of Earth System Science, School of Physical Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, and a senior research scientist/joint faculty appointee at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dr. Rignot’s primary research interests lie in glaciology, climate change, radar remote sensing, ice sheet numerical modeling, radar interferometry, radio-echo sounding, and ice-ocean interaction. His research group focuses on understanding the interactions of ice and climate, ice-sheet mass balance, ice sheet-ocean interaction in Greenland and Antarctica, and current and future contributions of ice sheets to sea-level change. He has received NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medals, NASA Outstanding Leadership, and was a member of the IPCC team awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and a lead author of IPCC 5th Assessment Report. His research has been covered by the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, BBC, CNN, National Geographic, Rolling Stones, and the New York Times Magazine and has been featured in Naked Science (2004), Chasing Ice (2012) and HBO series VICE (2015).