The World in 2013

year 2013Science hazards its best guesses about what we’ll experience in the new year, showing us previews of rising sea levels, soaring temperatures, and a close encounter with a supercomet.

West Antarctica will melt quickly, causing sea levels to rise exponentially. A new paper in Nature Geoscience finds that West Antarctica is warming much more quickly than scientists had predicted. In the last 54 years, the ice sheet has warmed 4.4 degrees Farenheit, which corresponds to three times the average rate of global warming. The researchers predict that all that ice melting would cause sea levels to rise by a catastrophic 10 feet within the next several hundred years.

We’ll have a close-call with a supercomet as luminous as the moon. If global warming doesn’t kill off the planet, an unstoppable supercomet hurtling towards our home planet might. Next year, we’re likely to have a close brush with such an impact. But don’t worry, astronomers say that a supercomet called ISON will come spectacularly close to Earth, but won’t hit us. Discovered by amateur star-gazers in Eastern Europe in September, this supercomet is projected to approach Earth close enough to put out as much light as the moon. Look for its passage in December 2013.

Temperatures will rise worldwide, in part due to El Niño. The weather phenomenon known as El Niño is scheduled to return in winter and spring of 2013, perhaps dethroning 2012 as the warmest year on record. If National Weather Service predictions are right, ocean surface temperatures will warm. That—compounded with rising sea levels and a steady temperature incline—could lead to record-breaking global temperatures.

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