The rise of global seal levels may be greater than predicted due to higher winds in Australia, a new survey reveals.

Current climate models have not taken these winds into account, and this means simulations may not reveal the true level of potential sea level rise. Still, recent studies have suggested ice sheets in Antarctica are melting, and may not stop shrinking until sea levels rise around 10 ten feet. This would take place over a period of between 200 and 500 years, a short period of time on a geological scale.

Winds blowing toward the west in the Southern Sea surrounding Antarctica have become stronger in recent years. These could hinder winds coming from the other direction, upsetting the balance between warmer and colder waters in the region. This could lead to warmer waters settling beneath the ice shelf, speeding the loss of ice on the continent.

"When we included projected Antarctic wind shifts in a detailed global ocean model, we found water up to [7.2 degrees Fahrenheit] warmer than current temperatures rose up to meet the base of the Antarctic ice shelves," Paul Spence of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science (ARCCSS), said.

The National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) Facility provided supercomputers used to run simulations for this research. Researchers visualized the effects of heat transfer in oceans, down to 2,300 feet, in greater detail than any previous study. This more accurate model, taking increasing winds around the continent, turned dire predictions even more serious. If the team is correct, the effects of warm water underlying ice shelves in Antarctica could be twice as great as previously estimated.

"When we first saw the results it was quite a shock. It was one of the few cases where I hoped the science was wrong," Spence told the press.

If the environment reacts in the real world they way it does in the virtual model, loss of the Antarctic ice sheet could happen much faster than climatologists once thought. History may provide evidence to support this theory. Researchers know sea levels have quickly risen several times during the history of the Earth, and this model would suggest a possible mechanism for the actions.

This increase in the force of these westerly winds has also previously been linked to a drying of the Antarctic climate.

Investigation of winds over the Southern Ocean and how they can affect the rise of global sea levels was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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