antarctic-ice-sheet-collapse

Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble

by Robert Hunziker

The global warming crisis seems to get worse and worse, faster and faster. Now, Antarctica is in the spotlight with brand-new shocking research of a spine-chilling development.

The whole of Antarctica, if melted in its entirety, equates to a sea level rise of 200’, but that will not happen during current lifetimes. It’s too big and would require way too much heating for way too long. But, a meltdown of a significant part of Antarctica, like West Antarctica, has the potential, according to new research, to submerge Miami and New York during current lifetimes. This is the first time scientific observation has officially come to the conclusion that such a horrendous meltdown is probable so soon!

Already, Miami Beach is forced to raise streets by two feet because of persistent flooding beyond any past experience. Indeed, a rising sea is global warming’s payback for reckless, arrogant, pompously excessive anthropogenic (human-caused) fossil fuel CO2 emissions.

The frightful new findings involve Pine Island Glacier, the subject of a research paper by Seongsu Jeong, Ian M. Howat, Jeremy N. Basis, Accelerated Ice Shelf Rifting and Retreat at Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica, Geophysical Research Letters, 28 November 2018.

The tenor of Jeong’s paper should scare the pants off anybody who doubts the seriousness and powerfulness behind acceleration of global warming. As it happens, Pine Island Glacier was already the world’s largest mass of irreversible ice melt before this new research came to light, but timing has always been kinda fuzzy. Now, with this new analysis, timing is taking on a whole new ugly dimension.

Here’s the problem: According to Ian Howat, associate professor of Earth Sciences at Ohio State University: “This kind of rifting behavior provides another mechanism for rapid retreat of these glaciers, adding to the probability that we may see significant collapse of West Antarctica in our lifetimes” (Source, Pam Frost Gorder, West Antarctic Ice Shelf Breaking Up From the Inside Out, The Ohio State University, Nov. 28, 2016).

That’s a brand-spanking new global warming threat. It is big, real big! It is the first time researchers have witnessed “deep subsurface rift” opening within Antarctic ice: “This implies that something weakened the center of the ice shelf, with the most likely explanation being a crevasse melted out at the bedrock level by a warming ocean,” Ibid. The bottom of West Antarctica Ice Sheet lies below sea level so warm ocean water can intrude inland, undetected.

A warming ocean figures as the culprit as the ocean has been absorbing up to 90% of Earth’s heat, helping to protect on-land creatures, like humans, from real bad overheating. But, what goes around comes around, as evidenced in Antarctica; all of that worldly heat is coming home to roost underneath big, fat ice sheets.

“Researchers found that from two-thirds to 98 percent of the substantial ocean heat gain between 2006 and 2013 took place well south of the equator… Summer sea surface temperatures in some sections have risen… nearly five times the global average. Parts of the Indian Ocean, North Atlantic, and waters surrounding Antarctica are warming at nearly the same rate. More heat stored in the ocean now means more will inevitably return to the atmosphere… The ocean’s doing us a favor by grabbing about 90 percent of our heat, but it’s not going to do it forever” (Source: How Long Can Oceans Continue to Absorb Earth’s Excess Heat? Environment360, e360yale.edu, 30 Mar 2015).

Here’s what’s different from past research: Rifts usually form at the margins of the ice shelves, calving icebergs, but not deep inland like this new discovery. Furthermore, the rift in question is 20 miles inland. Pine Island Glacier (keeping one’s fingers crossed) serves as a backstop, holding back large portions of West Antarctica ice from flowing into the sea. Pine Island Glacier is like a hockey goalie for parts of the massive West Antarctica ice sheet, the last line of defense, preventing partial collapse of the big ice sheet, which would entail quite a large splash unimaginably, inconceivably large!

One year ago, Science Magazine carried the following article: “Just a Nudge Could Collapse West Antarctic Ice Sheet, Raise Sea Levels 3 Meters,” Science, Nov. 2, 2015. The opening paragraph of that article states: “It won’t take much to cause the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet to collapse—and once it starts, it won’t stop. In the last year, a slew of papers has highlighted the vulnerability of the ice sheet covering the western half of the continent, suggesting that its downfall is inevitable—and probably already underway. Now, a new model shows just how this juggernaut could unfold. A relatively small amount of melting over a few decades, the authors say, will inexorably lead to the destabilization of the entire ice sheet and the rise of global sea levels by as much as 3 meters.” That was back then, over a year ago, but now circumstances seem to be accelerating.

With this new discovery, timing of a collapsing West Antarctica Ice Sheet is downright spooky. Previously scientists thought decades-to-centuries. Now, maybe “within current lifetimes.”

Assuming it’s not already too late, never before in world history has strong U.S.  leadership been so important to do whatever is necessary to stem an impending climate change/global-warming cataclysm. Our way of life is at stake.

Along those lines, climate science is eerily similar to tracking near-Earth asteroids, which over millennia occasionally crash into Earth, wiping out the poor defenseless dinosaurs, for example. If a near-Earth asteroid is projected to hit, maybe some kind of deployment can prevent the big crash from wiping out life on the planet. Thus, begging the very big question: What deployment stops collapsing ice sheets?

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Robert Hunziker
Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He can be contacted at: roberthunziker@icloud.com

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