CHILLING NEWS: POLAR ICECAP MELTING FASTER THAN WE THOUGHT

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: NASA

March 17, 2015 (San Diego’s East County)--Here’s some chilling news.  International team of scientists in Antarctica have reached disturbing conclusions, the Washington Post reports.

An enormous glacier in East Antarctica has been destabilized by a trough of warm ocean water underneath, likely bringing about irreversible destabilization that will set in motion a sea level rise average over 10 feet worldwide.

That’s not all.  In December,  other scientists found likely irreversible melting of  glacial ice in West Antarctica capable of raising sea levels 11 feet. Do the math: that’s a potential rise of 21 feet from water released by these two ice masses alone.

The Totten Glacier in East Antarctica is  melting due to warm ocean water underneath.  The 90-mile-long glacier holds back a larger ice catchment that could cause sea levels to rise dramatically. Lead study author Jamin Greenbaum at the University of Texas – yes, a conservative red state scientist—says that’s a “conservative limit.”

The scientists  used three types of measurements – gravitational, radar and laser altimetry,  in flights over the ice to determine what was happening underneath the Totten Glacier – and learned that it is floating, not solid. Next up, they hope to use undersea drones to gather more scientific data.

There’s even more bad news  for those of us here in North America.  Rising sea levels won’t be distributed evenly, due to gravity.  Antarctica is so massive that it produces its own gravitational pull, tugging the ocean towards it.  If it loses massive amounts of ice, the gravitational pull will be reduced and the ocean will slosh back toward the North Hemisphere.  So here in the United States, the sea level could rise 25 percent higher than elsewhere.

Ironically it’s the U.S. that has also pumped out the most greenhouse gases contributing to climate change, leading some to wryly observe that the planet may soon get its revenge.

That won’t happen right away. Scientists predict it will take generations. So our descendants may someday see coastal San Diego underwater – and some inland areas may become beachfront property.

Of course our children and their children may not be around to see these changes, since rapid climate change could also ultimately warm the planet to levels unsustainable for human life.

Martin Siegert, a coauthor of the study from the Grantham Institute at Imperial College in London, concludes, “With warming oceans, it’s difficult to see how a process that starts now would be reversed, or reversible, in a warming world.”