New NASA Tool Measures Ice Melt To Predict Extent Of Flooding In Cities

NASA researchers have developed a new tool that forecasts the effects of ice melt, giving cities an advance look into how they might be affected by potential increases in sea levels.

The forecasting tool, as described by NASA, offers each city “a picture of which glaciers, ice sheets, [and] ice caps” should be monitored in advance of a possible flooding event. According to BBC News, the tool takes multiple variables into account when making predictions, including the Earth’s spin and its gravitational effects.

“As cities and countries attempt to build plans to mitigate flooding, they have to be thinking about 100 years in the future and they want to assess risk in the same way that insurance companies do,” explained NASA Jet Propulsion Lab Senior Scientist Erik Ivins.

With the help of the forecasting tool, NASA was able to identify certain cities that could be affected by ice melt, as well as the specific ice sheets they should closely monitor. In New York, sea-level rise could be influenced by major changes in both the northern and eastern regions of the Greenland ice sheet. A small part of the ice sheet’s northwestern region is expected to pose a threat to sea levels in London. Meanwhile, the Antarctic ice sheet may exert a “very strong influence” on sea levels in Sydney, with the changes expected to manifest in the ice sheet’s north-northeast and north-northwest coasts.

Further explaining, NASA’s ice melt prediction tool lead developer and JPL scientist, Eric Larour, said that there are three processes that could influence how sea levels change in different parts of the world; gravity, the vertical expansion of land underneath melting ice sheets, and Earth’s “spinning top” rotation.

“As it spins it wobbles and as masses on its surface change, that wobble also changes,” Larour said.

“That, in turn, redistributes water around the Earth.”

Larour added that NASA’s ice melt tool provides city-specific forecasts by computing exact sea level sensitivities and relating them to any type of ice mass in the world.

The prediction tool is NASA’s latest contribution as it uses a variety of instruments and systems to study the evolution of polar ice and determine how it plays a role in climate change and sea levels. As noted by a separate report from Fortune, NASA’s ongoing Operation IceBridge has yielded some data that suggests that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is in “irreversible” decline, with the resulting ice melt having played a key part in rising sea levels.

Given the worrying trends spotted by NASA and other agencies, the researchers behind the ice melt forecasting tool stressed the importance of the new project, highlighting its city-specific nature and its potential to help people from any city understand the impact of ice melt on a more specific level. A report from UPI further noted that the NASA researchers are trying to predict which parts of Antarctica and Greenland’s ice sheets may be most vulnerable to ice melt, therefore improving their model’s accuracy.

[Featured Image by Mario Tama/Getty Images]