There is growing concern regarding the melting of glaciers contributing to rising ocean levels with some studies warning of a total rise of more than three feet by the end of the century.
A survey has been sent to the top glaciologists and specifically asked them about the condition of the ice sheets in both Antarctica and Greenland and their professional predictions regarding the future. The results were recently published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
There is a great deal of unknowns relating to how glaciers respond to warmer temperatures because the characteristics of each separate glacier react differently in different environments.
Jonathan Bamber, a glaciologist at the University of Bristol, along with fellow colleague, Willy Aspinall, sent the survey to the 26 top glaciologists in 2010 and the respondents were then polled again in 2012.
Both Bamber and Aspinall were eager to compare both sets of data and see if leading perspectives regarding glacial melt had changed or been reinforced.
The survey was considered an opinion poll, but used respondents that were regarded as leading experts and highly respected in their fields, while analyzing the data in a scientific way.
"We analyzed the results in a very systematic, rigorous, and statistically robust way," Bamber told NBC.
The average estimate given by respondents showed they believed that melting ice sheets would contribute one foot to sea level rise by the year 2100. When thermal expansion, water expanding as it warms, is figured into the equation, the prediction is even worse with estimates showing a rise of more than three feet.
"The consequences are horrible … the numbers we are getting out of our elicitation reflect the fact that the world leaders in this field are now cognizant of the fact that the ice sheets are quite responsive and, in particular, there is a potential for them to make a really quite dramatic contribution," Bamber told NBC.