West Antarctica warming faster than expected — may increase the rate of sea level rising


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West Antarctica is warming almost twice as fast as previously believed, adding to worries of a thaw that would add to sea level rise from San Francisco to Shanghai…

Annual average temperatures at the Byrd research station in West Antarctica had risen 2.4 degrees Celsius (4.3F) since the 1950s, one of the fastest gains on the planet and three times the global average in a changing climate…

The unexpectedly big increase adds to fears the ice sheet is vulnerable to thawing. West Antarctica holds enough ice to raise world sea levels by at least 3.3 meters if it ever all melted, a process that would take centuries.

“The western part of the ice sheet is experiencing nearly twice as much warming as previously thought,” Ohio State University said in a statement of the study led by its geography professor David Bromwich.

The warming “raises further concerns about the future contribution of Antarctica to sea level rise,” it said. Higher summer temperatures raised risks of a surface melt of ice and snow even though most of Antarctica is in a year-round deep freeze…

The rise in temperatures in the remote region was comparable to that on the Antarctic Peninsula to the north, which snakes up towards South America, according to the U.S.-based experts writing in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Parts of the northern hemisphere have also warmed at similarly fast rates.

Several ice shelves – thick ice floating on the ocean and linked to land – have collapsed around the Antarctic Peninsula in recent years. Once ice shelves break up, glaciers pent up behind them can slide faster into the sea, raising water levels.

“The stakes would be much higher if a similar event occurred to an ice shelf restraining one of the enormous West Antarctic ice sheet glaciers,” said Andrew Monaghan, a co-author at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research.

The Pine Island glacier off West Antarctica, for instance, brings as much water to the ocean as the Rhine river in Europe.

I think some of the Know-Nothings in American politics believe that glaciers calving into oceans produce something like plastic ice cubes. They just bob around and never melt. Cripes.

6 thoughts on “West Antarctica warming faster than expected — may increase the rate of sea level rising

  1. Cassandra says:

    “Antarctica Is Now Rapidly Melting All Over, Including Parts We Thought Were Safe” https://www.sciencealert.com/antarctic-ice-loss-is-already-happening-a-shocking-six-times-faster-than-in-the-1970s “Antarctic glaciers have been melting at an accelerating pace over the past four decades thanks to an influx of warm ocean water – a startling new finding that researchers say could mean sea levels are poised to rise more quickly than predicted in coming decades.
    The Antarctic lost 40 billion tons of melting ice to the ocean each year from 1979 to 1989. That figure rose to 252 billion tons lost per year beginning in 2009, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
    That means the region is losing six times as much ice as it was four decades ago, an unprecedented pace in the era of modern measurements. (It takes about 360 billion tons of ice to produce one millimeter of global sea-level rise.)”
    See also “Four decades of Antarctic Ice Sheet mass balance from 1979–2017” https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2019/01/08/1812883116

  2. Mike says:

    NASA @NASA 12:13 PM – 24 Feb 2019: Cracking across Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf is set to release an iceberg w/ an area about 2x the size of NYC. The splitting could result in an uncertain future for the shelf’s scientific research & human presence. See what @NASAEarth satellites captured: https://go.nasa.gov/2T9iodx [Includes interactive map: January 30, 1986 to January 23, 2019] “The growing cracks have prompted safety concerns for people working on the shelf, particularly researchers at the British Antarctic Survey’s Halley Station. This major base for Earth, atmospheric, and space science research typically operates year-round, but has been closed down twice in recent years due to unpredictable changes in the ice. The station has also been rebuilt and relocated over the decades [link]. The detailed image shows the station’s location (Halley IV) until it was closed in 1992. In 2016-2017, the Halley VI station was relocated to a safer location (Halley VIa) upstream of the growing crack.”
    NYC has a land area of about 302.6 square miles.

    • Cassandra says:

      “Journey to Antarctica: Reckoning With Uncertainty : A conversation with chief scientist Rob Larter about the existential guessing game at the bottom of the world” (Rolling Stone 2/26/19) https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/antarctica-melting-speed-800099/ This is the eighth dispatch in a series from Jeff Goodell, who is in Antarctica investigating the effect of climate change on Thwaites Glacier.
      “What happens in Antarctica — and at Thwaites glacier, in particular — has enormous consequences for the world. Until recently, scientists studying the response of glaciers to climate change thought Antarctica was fairly stable. But in the late 1990s, they realized they were wrong. One of the places where change is happening fastest is Thwaites, which is in a remote part of West Antarctica. Thwaites has been called “the weak underbelly” of the West Antarctic ice sheet, and that’s a pretty good way to describe it. It flows out from a very large and vulnerable drainage basin in West Antarctica. If Thwaites were to collapse, the whole West Antarctic ice sheet could be in trouble.” Rob Larter, geophysicist at the British Antarctic Survey

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