Climate Model Predicts West Antarctic Ice Sheet Could Melt Rapidly – The New York Times

“For half a century, climate scientists have seen the West Antarctic ice sheet, a remnant of the last ice age, as a sword of Damocles hanging over human civilization.The great ice sheet, larger than Mexico, is thought to be potentially vulnerable to disintegration from a relatively small amount of global warming, and capable of raising the sea level by 12 feet or more should it break up. But researchers long assumed the worst effects would take hundreds — if not thousands — of years to occur.Now, new research suggests the disaster scenario could play out much sooner.Continued high emissions of heat-trapping gases could launch a disintegration of the ice sheet within decades, according to a study published Wednesday, heaving enough water into the ocean to raise the sea level as much as three feet by the end of this century.With ice melting in other regions, too, the total rise of the sea could reach five or six feet by 2100, the researchers found. That is roughly twice the increase reported as a plausible worst-case scenario by a United Nations panel just three years ago, and so high it would likely provoke a profound crisis within the lifetimes of children being born today.”

Source: Climate Model Predicts West Antarctic Ice Sheet Could Melt Rapidly – The New York Times

1 thought on “Climate Model Predicts West Antarctic Ice Sheet Could Melt Rapidly – The New York Times

  1. Here is one of the better comments from the NYTimes:
    Mark Shore Canada 17 hours ago NYT Pick

    “Partly because of its mandate, the IPCC has consistently aimed for the most conservative interpretation and forecasts allowed by the technical literature, and because of writing, reviewing and editing constraints is limited to published research appearing 18-24 months prior to its assessment reports publication dates.

    The hypotheses of DeConto and Pollard did not spring forth unexpected, but are part of a large and growing body of research looking at the nonlinear dynamics of ice loss and climate change. In this case, the effects are intuitively obvious. Both Greenland and Antarctica contain vast, high, continent-sized ice sheets that generate their own regional climates. Modeling ice loss through surface melt driven by slowly warming air temperatures with melting concentrated around the margins is just one of the mechanisms leading to the retreat of these ice sheets with associated sea level rise.

    Even if unaware of the heat capacity of water and the enthalpy of melting ice, everyone has seen that ice floats and that ice cubes melt much faster in warm water than in still air. This research simply scales such well-known physical phenomena up to continent size. Warming, softening and cracking ice lifted and melted by increasingly warm ocean currents can drive melting at a pace that surface melting cannot. These are mechanisms that can act year-round, not just in the polar summers, that can accelerate, and that will be very, very hard to slow or halt unless we act soon.”
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