Expected results and answers
Sea level rise is caused by two main factors: thermal expansion and melting ice. Thermal expansion refers to the fact that when the temperature of a liquid rises, so does its volume. You may also have seen news stories about how melting ice in the polar regions will affect sea level rise, but let's find our how not all ice is equal.
The ‘Arctic Ocean’ container should see little rise in the level of the water. Melting sea ice causes little impact on sea level, as this just represents the sea freezing and thawing without the addition of other water sources.
The ‘Greenland’ or ‘Antarctica’ container should see a greater rise in the level of the water, potentially ‘flooding’ over the top of the can. Melting ice on land can have a significant impact on sea level rise, with 99% of the freshwater on the planet stored in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
People living in coastal areas around the world, including the UK and USA, would be more susceptible to flooding if the ice on land (e.g. the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets) melted but melting sea ice would have little impact. It is estimated that global sea levels would rise by an average of 66 metres if all the ice sheets were to melt.
A study published in the journal Science in 2012 estimates that 4 trillion tonnes of ice from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets has melted between 1992 and 2011. This has resulted in an 11mm rise in sea level, contributing about 40% of the total sea level rise during this period.