Published: Sat, November 18, 2017
Research | By Raquel Erickson

NASA Tool Predicts Which Cities Will Flood As Ice Melts

NASA Tool Predicts Which Cities Will Flood As Ice Melts

They have created a tool that accounts for all the factors that will impact sea level changes at various points around the globe over time.

While all quadrants of the Greenland ice sheet are melting and contribute to sea level rise all over the world, this study shows that both NYC and London are vulnerable to melt nearly exclusively from the northern most parts of the ice sheet, with NY showing contributions from both the northwest and northeast quadrants of Greenland.

City planning and development departments will now be able to prepare for rising sea levels with the help of a new simulation tool by Nasa.

So, by running the new Gradient Fingerprint Mapping tool, on NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Virtual Earth System Laboratory (VESL), anyone can see exactly which glaciers and ice sheets are impacting on their region of the world, and even break down the individual contributions to local sea level changes from each source.

The map reveals one ice sheet could have vastly different effects on certain areas of the world, depending on which part melts. By exhaustively mapping these fingerprint gradients, we form a new diagnosis tool, henceforth referred to as gradient fingerprint mapping (GFM), that readily allows for improved assessments of future coastal inundation or emergence. Sydney should actually fear the loss of parts of Antarctic ice that are farther from Australia more than the ones that are closer.

As such, ocean waters nearby move away, causing sea level to rise faster far away from the glacier.

Sea level rise is one of the most recognizable consequences of climate change and is likely to be one of the most destructive as well. Senior scientist Dr Erik Ivins told BBC.


An ice sheet is a continental glacier that covers a large area.

The gradient of sea level rise near New York City with respect to ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet is shown. When the mass decreases, so does the gravitational pull of the ice on the water, and the water slumps back away from the shoreline.

Sea level 'fingerprints, ' are patterns of sea level variability around the world resulting from changes in water storage on Earth's continents and in the mass of ice sheets.

Projections show that oceans will rise on average by 1-4 feet across the globe by 2100, but the amount of rise will not be uniform for everyone.

As the ice at the poles (and on mountain tops) slowly melts due to global warming, sea levels will rise-that much is obvious.

While melting land ice anywhere should concern coastal residents as the planet warms, this tool can help focus those concerns and make specific city projections more accurate.

The researchers verified their calculations using reading of ocean-bottom pressure from stations in the tropics.

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