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New Zealand scientist warns of Antarctic ice melt, sea rise
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A New Zealand scientist warned on Thursday of rising sea levels due to Antarctic ice melt.

Tim Naish said new evidence showed that changes to Antarctica's most vulnerable element, the West Antarctic ice sheet, could raise global sea levels by up to 5 metres.

The Director of Victoria University's Antarctic Research Centre will present this new evidence at his inaugural professorial lecture on July 7 at Victoria University.

"Polar ice sheets have grown and collapsed at least 40 times over the past 5 million years, causing major sea-level fluctuations," he said in a media release. "The most recent 'interglacial' has lasted 10,000 years, during which time global sea-level and atmospheric temperatures have remained more or less constant, and human civilisation has flourished."

Professor Naish said much of his research has focused on the international drilling program in the sedimentary layers of the West Antarctic ice sheet.

"Evidence shows that this sheet is expected to melt first, along with Greenland. West Antarctica sits below sea level, so as the ocean warms, the ice sheet also warms. One way to understand this is to use the paeloclimate record to go back to a time when the earth was warmer and to see how West Antarctica behaved," he added.

"We know that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were slightly above what they are now, and the earth was two to three degrees warmer. When the West Antarctica ice sheet collapsed numerous times,it raised sea levels by up to 10 meters," he said.

"The findings are an opportunity to take a major step forward in our understanding of the Antarctic ice sheet's response to global climate change," he added.

(Xinhua News Agency July 2, 2009)

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