Future generations face wilder weather due to “climate chaos” triggered by global warming, scientists have claimed.
Water from melting Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is likely to have a major effect on ocean currents and temperatures by the end of the century, a study has found.
This in turn is expected to lead to extreme and unpredictable weather events, such as severe heatwaves and cold snaps, flash floods and hurricanes.
Lead scientist Dr Nick Golledge, from Victoria University in New Zealand, said: “Under current global government policies, we are heading towards three or four degrees of warming above pre-industrial levels, causing a significant amount of melt water from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to enter Earth’s oceans.
“According to our models, this melt water will cause significant disruptions to ocean currents and change levels of warming around the world.”
The team combined detailed simulations of melting climate effects with satellite observations of recent changes to the ice sheets.
The models suggested that sea levels were likely to rise fastest between 2065 and 2075.
Critically, melting ice flowing from land to sea would affect temperatures and circulation patterns in the world’s oceans.
The influx of melt water was expected to weaken the Gulf Stream, bringing warmer air to the high Arctic, Eastern Canada and Central America, and cooler temperatures to north-western Europe.
Temperature variability would increase in both the atmosphere and the oceans, resulting in more frequent extreme weather events.
Dr Golledge added: “Melt from these ice sheets is going to significantly disrupt the global climate making temperatures in some areas vary much more from one year to the next.
“This unpredictability is going to prove extremely disruptive for all of us, and will make adaptation and planning much more difficult.”
The research is reported in the journal Nature.