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You are here News Environment The Sea Level Threat To Cities Depends On Where The Ice Melts — Not Just How Fast

The Sea Level Threat To Cities Depends On Where The Ice Melts — Not Just How Fast

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Sea level threat to cities depends on how far and how fast the ice is melting

The world's oceans are rising. Over the past century, they're up an average of about eight inches. But the seas are rising more in some places than others. And scientists are now finding that how much sea level rises in, say, New York City, has a lot to do with exactly where the ice is melting.

A warming climate is melting a lot of glaciers and ice sheets on land. That means more water rolling down into the oceans.

But the oceans are not like a bathtub. The water doesn't rise uniformly.

To understand why, think of the earth as a spinning top. When huge ice sheets — some are two miles thick — start to melt, it actually affects the Earth's rotation.

"What happens is when you change the mass of the ice," explains Eric Larour, who studies the frozen parts of the planet, "the modification itself makes the wobble change, and this in turn changes the shape of the ocean on the Earth."

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