The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Melting of Antarctic Ice Shelves Could Double by 2050, Dramatically Increasing Sea Level Rise
If countries act fast to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, according to new research, there is still time to curtail the most cataclysmic Antarctic ice melt.
This NASA photograph shows the collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf. Photo credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
However, according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, if fossil fuel consumption maintains its current rate, Antarctica may experience a widespread collapse of its ice shelves, which could spur significant sea level rise.
Researchers employed a combination of satellite observations of ice surface melting and climate model simulations under scenarios of intermediate and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Under both emissions scenarios, by 2050, the models indicate a "strong potential" for the doubling of surface melting of Antarctica's ice shelves, which are the "floating extensions" of the continent's ice sheets.
When extended to 2100, the trajectories diverge, with the more intense scenario showing "ice sheet surface melting approaches or exceeds intensities associated with ice shelf collapse in the past" and the reduced-emissions scenario showing "relatively little increase in ice sheet melting" after 2050.
"The data presented in this study clearly show that climate policy and therefore the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions over the coming century, have an enormous control over the future fate of surface melting of Antarctic ice shelves, which we must consider when assessing their long-term stability and potential indirect contributions to sea level rise," said Clark University Associate Professor of Geography Karen Frey, who contributed to the study along with researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at Utrecht University, and Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.
Luke Trusel, lead author and postdoctoral scholar at WHOI, added that the results "illustrate just how rapidly melting in Antarctica can intensify in a warming climate."
As WHOI explains, ice shelves have a "door stop" effect on sea level rise, as they slow the flow of ice from glaciers and ice sheets into the ocean, where it melts.
The study follows a report last month which found that the Antarctic ice sheet would melt completely if all of the world's coal, oil and gas reserves were extracted and burned. Another, put forth by former NASA Scientist James Hansen this summer, argued that glacial melting will "likely" occur this century and could cause as much as a ten foot sea-level rise in as little as fifty years.
All of this comes in the lead-up to the United Nations climate talks in Paris beginning Nov. 30, during which international delegates are expected to cement an international climate agreement. However, countries on the front-lines of the most pressing climate impacts, such as sea level rise, are concerned that the pact will not go far enough to stem the worst effects of global warming.
Check out this interactive map that allows you to see the potential sea level rise on cities, depending on how the world acts on climate:
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Emily Deanne
Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.
By Lorraine Chow
Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.
States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
By Kristin Ohlson
From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.
Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.
By Hans Nicholas Jong
Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.
It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."