SEA levels are set to rise by more than 2ft (60cm) by the end of the century — at least twice as much as previously predicted, warns new research.
The higher rate of increase — caused by accelerated melting of polar ice sheets — would devastate coastal communities around the world.
It would mean ocean water levels gaining an additional millimetre a year for each of the coming decades.
Prof Steve Nerem, of the University of Colorado in Boulder, US, said: ‘This acceleration, driven mainly by melting in Greenland and Antarctica, has the potential to double the total sea level rise by 2100 compared with projections that assume a constant rate — more than 2ft (60cm) instead of about 1ft (30cm).’
The findings, published by the National Academy of Sciences, could mean places as far flung as Bangladesh, parts of Washington DC and Shanghai, China, being engulfed by rising waters.
Co-author Prof Gary Mitchum, of the University of South Florida College of Marine Science, said: ‘This is a game changer as far as the climate change discussion goes.’
■ WEATHER warnings for winds, snow and rain are in place for the south-west, Northern Ireland and western Scotland today. It follows a day of disruption yesterday when snow closed dozens of schools in the Highlands and caused havoc on roads. Sleet, hail and rain are forecast for the south after a very cold start to the day with frost and ice in many places. Temperatures are expected to rise midweek.